i drowned in the shallows of his collarbones
as dawn coaxed over the treetops, furred in
needles and the carcasses of birds nests. he
dyed me with blue eyes, shoulders slouched
forwards, cyclamen folded against the snowed-in
sun, a stray cat curled up in the shadows of dumpsters.
like peter pan, he had that daydream hidden in the
indentation of his right dimple. i wish i could
remember when my name in his mouth
became a threat—the sharp sting of a slap that
never went away. he left a car wrecked in the
woods, my heart mangled somewhere between
the frayed seatbelt and the center console, my notebook
wedged beneath the car seat where he couldn’t find it.
sometimes, i wonder if i cared more about hiding it
than the wreck, the pocket of words i didn’t want
him to see so he wouldn’t find out that, compared
to my poems, i’m a husk—evaded gazes and harsh
laughter scraped with frostbit skin,
i’ve never written a poem i liked,
never been with a person i loved. he was drunk on wine
i could never afford. he called again because
he only liked to talk to me when wasted. snow in his hair,
the impression of my smile on his fingertips, i thought
i would only ever feel safe upstate, but he took that away from
me too. cold mornings weigh on me, wet grave dirt on my chest. it’s still
there in the periphery, smeared with days of heat and melted ice. i
pour the canister of torn, blank pages and gasoline
over the backseat, the leather caked in the words i’ve
lost again and again, sit in the front seat, the windshield
splintered with his smile and the one i never showed him.
the notebook is still there but the flames hunger its
staled phrases just as easily as my skin, the blackened
edges curl in the wind, flake away all the words i’ve
ever written that i never liked but always loved.
Emma Deimling currently works as a writing tutor at the Ohio State University’s writing center. They have been published in numerous magazines, including Crow & Cross Keys and The Broadkill Review. She lives in Columbus, Ohio. You can find them on Twitter @EmmaDeimling.