The girl with a balloon tucked snug
under her fleece wants to birth clouds.
She devours her reflection
in the hockey rink Plexiglas.
We both ignore the game.
She caresses the small swell, smiles
as if this particular joy is unavoidable. As if fear
wasn’t about to drop, a bomb from the sky.

I converge on her like a murmuration
of starlings. Like bad luck.
Standing side by side, I see through me
to my son wheedling his way across the ice.
I close my eyes and try again.
Body, I say, where have you been? My body
a blue city in which no streetlamps are lit.
Suddenly there I am, no longer
the teeth of the river, but tenuous
as a kite string. How blood
shifts directions,
bends us into the geometry
of a new flesh, the feel
like an oversized raincoat.

It is not quite winter but it is bone-cold.
Trees stand naked. Unashamed. I envy
them. The blade of my tongue
has become dull as a moonless night
in the tender wilderness of my marriage.
The last time I went away I returned
missing an earring. Who knows what’s next.
Here is the secret: I spent all summer
thinking about myself. The conclusion?
I want in and out, like a cat. I want to come
again so I can leave again, searched for
like a hidden mouth
that wants feeding.

There is a new dress in my closet
waiting for a special occasion. Unworn
despite the tender wilderness
of my marriage. This is the wrong time.
This is about a girl. Like a magician
she pulls the balloon from under her North Face,
says, Look! Isn’t my baby beautiful?
then laughs. Her rapture could knock the planets
out of alignment. I admit, it’s beautiful.
This universe hiding inside a body.
Beautiful like decay is beautiful.
Beautiful like departure.
The starlings have obfuscated the sky.
It might be that this is the most beautiful
ending I’ve seen all day.

This is a reprint of work originally published in Fleshed.

Leigh Anne Hornfeldt, a Kentucky native, is the author of East Main Aviary, The Intimacy Archive, and Fleshed (forthcoming from Winged City Chapbooks, 2016). She is the editor at Two of Cups Press and a recipient of a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. In 2013 her poem “Laika” placed 2nd in The Argos Prize competition and in 2012 she received the Kudzu Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in journals such as Spry, Lunch Ticket, Foundling Review, and the Journal of Kentucky Studies.

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