Size / / /

—after Benjamin Britten

(1) You came ashore crowned in salt and sea glass. Spelling ruination in the veins of your wrist, in the curve of your thumb. That day you wore a gunmetal suit that did not carry water, the one you now keep folded beneath our bed after our wedding. Sometimes I pull it out and look at the lightning in its folds, remembering the way the clouds shattered over the coastline where we made our pact. At Brighton Beach, where you let the sand fill your Oxford shoes. You were turning toward me, always turning, all the parts of you surfacing for air. And I knew then that legends would be written about us in the language of cranes, in the water that leaks out of weeping glaciers during summertime. I was barely seventeen. I shed my tears into the sea. You said you would return in seven years, and I said, I've read enough stories to know how this ends.

Do you really, you said.

Oh yes, I said. Oh, yes.

(2) toradh toirmiscthe. Forbidden fruit. And when you kiss me, your mouth tastes of brine.

(3) You are almost handsome. You have an aristocratic face and you speak French. You have pale brown hair and green eyes, like the penumbra of a redwood across frozen ground. Spring light. I know that you startle at Géricault paintings and that you do not like the taste of clams. I know that when you fell in love with me, you gave me a locked suitcase and said I must never open it. When it rains I hear you crying but I think, oh, it is only the rain.

(4) You came to me once every seven years until I said I am thirty-eight and you can't leave me again. You said please take this knife and cut off my skin and I did I did.


Kailee Pedersen’s poetry has appeared in AGNI, Sonora Review, Shō, They Rise Like a Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets (Blue Oak Press), and others. She was adopted from Nanning in 1996. Her debut novel, Sacrificial Animals, is forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press in August 2024.
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