Shoulder deep in the lake at dusk, fish slid
like flaps of light by my legs, my hair swished behind me.
The world was of small noise that summer,
avoiding words, slipping past mirrors.
I sat on the dock, my skin wet and shimmering,
watching birds glide in their flat S for the instant
they swooped, as if something uttered
swung them around by their beaks,
and the invisible ribbon of their pattern
pulled, like a bow, untied. (In a letter
he wrote, Je t'aimais, Je t’aime, Je t'aimerai.)
Some said I was dewy-eyed, walking home
from the lake in my towel, studying fireflies,
with their fairylike name and blinking charm.
But what about the moment they come on,
when the dark meets their skill and they crawl to the tips of the reeds?
The summer before, Mother wrote Cum Deo in permanent marker all around our house, on lampshades, picture frames, and vases. Sitting on the edge of her hospital bed, I spoke in whispers yet my voice had never been so loud. Because I asked her to, she said she wanted to live—promised she was happy she hadn’t died. Birds flew by like white scarves in wind. I was fourteen, a trembling ballerina, a stone. My love was a knife against her throat.
Chloe Honum is the author of The Tulip-Flame (CSU 2014), winner of Foreword Review's Book of the Year Award in Poetry and a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Her chapbook Then Winter is forthcoming from Bull City Press in 2017. She was born in California and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. "Sixteen" originally appeared in The Tulip-Flame. "Visiting Hours" originally appeared in The Southern Review.