- Visiting Hours, and: Seated Dancer in Profile, and: Dressing Room
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 promised she wanted to live—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. [End Page 515]
Seated Dancer in Profile
The dancer sits on the ground. She wears a dress with a low back and a bow at the waist. She is surrounded by blue, and her hand touches the nape of her neck. It is up to you what this gesture means. She looks away—first from the painter and then the world. To love her is to accept that she will never turn around. [End Page 516]
At the hospital morgue, I put on two purple gloves, which made my hands look like fish beneath the surface of a pond. A man unzipped the bag so I could see my friend's face.
The dancers change into costume, stretch. A curling iron heats up on a table. Pairs of false eyelashes wait in their plastic kits. Around the edge of the mirror, a few light bulbs are always out, like the dim regions on a map.
It is natural to look for yourself first in a picture. To reassure yourself that you are there. The morgue was small and cold. The chemical smell made it suddenly hard to breathe. "You won't," the ballet master said, when I asked what to do if I forgot. [End Page 517]
Chloe Honum's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Paris Review, The Journal, and Best of Net 2012. She is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship. She was raised in Auckland, New Zealand, and is currently a doctoral fellow at Texas Tech University.