She is the color of dying, of dark spaces, of blackened ash
on bare toes, a harbinger in her father’s hands
and still, this boy holds her, as steady
as a shadow at her back, breath so soft it burns
her harsh skin, his hands holding onto wings
that will never bleed clean. All her life, she’s only danced
with dreams, but tonight, she is as glorious,
every eye bright and begging, ivory lights flooded across
black feathers, coloring them bright in a kind lie.
His lips paint lines along her neck – love, he says, but the word sifts
through her like sand, meant for someone else, someone as white
as winter, as white as the skin that must hide beneath
these darkened wings, sewn into the softness of her heart.
and she is the one who must cause the darkness, of course,
but before he turns away, before the lights shrink,
smothered to shadows, she thinks: who is to say she is impure?
(There are white feathers,
littered like snow on the stone.
Such cruelties are familiar to her)
Afterwards, she plucks out her feathers with long fingernails,
leaving pinpricks on her palms, a dark halo soft on the soil.
Alone, she listens to the thrumming of her bones.
The shoes, satin, she throws into the lake
where the swans have gathered, bowed and breathless.
where their bodies float like flower petals, undone
by her love.
Chloe Warden currently lives in Lewisville, TX. Having earned her BFA in 2012, she now helps to create websites for dentists while still working on original fiction in her spare time. Her work has been previously published in Thin Air.
Artwork: Arwen Donahue, from The Seeing Seeds