SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Mistake No. 4 by Chasity Hale

Before your chromosomes

talked on a tin can telephone

and decided to exchange genes,

before cancer seeded itself in your left arm

and made you carry pain in your bones,

you were Honeyed Dreamer

and everyone’s midday sweetheart.

 

Before I wanted to lose myself—

to for one moment be something

and the next, nothing at all—

I was Sheepish Theorizer,

always looking for reasons,

 

and we were in an imaginary band.

Sophomore year of high school,

we planned to ditch the first day of junior year

and drive out to Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor,

where we would get the Kitchen Sink

and eat the whole thing by ourselves.

 

My mother blessed the beach grass

and the walls of what was then just downtown,

but I denounced her praise

and would say to you,

these sacred things have lost their sanctity:

the smell of café con leche,

the trill of bells as the drawbridge unhooks,

the golden lights of the port of Miami

that wink like flashing stars.

 

Together,

we had wanted to go everywhere but home:

to the Swamp Shop, where there’d be more movies

than just the ones beneath our eyelids;

to Homestead, fields of pale grass

yellowed during daytime by washes of sunlight;

to the Keys, Atlantic Ocean,

deep blue swilling beach shores;

and to Central, where we’d run through the groves,

picking buttermilk white orange blossoms

from where they hug citrus peels.

We would climb into the forks

of hot live oaks just so we could say

God held us in his hands, and

we would pick Spanish moss

as if they were cotton fibers on a sweater.

We’d skim the Space Coast,

trying to imagine those shuttles in lunar orbit,

and at the end of the day, your pointer finger—

a compass needle— would always twitch us

in the cardinal direction home.

 

But those things never happened.

Instead, your eyes dulled. You stopped

going to school. We went to a prom

across the street from the beach

and even though the night was hot

and evening dew clung to our skin,

you wore a hat the whole time

because you were embarrassed

and missed your strawberry blond hair

like the hay bails

at Umatilla in October. Your smile

lost its sugar-rich,

and that whole year while you were away

taking care of yourself,

I would stand in the mirror—

every atom in my body wanting to flee—

and think:

What are you running away from?

What are you always running away from?


Chasity Hale has had work published in journals and anthologies such as the American Poetry Review and Susquehanna University’s The Apprentice Writer, and has read at various locations in the country, including the White House, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, and Miami International Book Fair. During high school, she received four national medals from Scholastic Art & Writing: silver in creative non-fiction; gold in creative non-fiction; gold in poetry; and gold in portfolio. In 2015, she served an ambassadorial year as a Southeastern National Student Poet under the Obama administration. She is currently a first-year student at Stanford University. 

Dress Rehearsal by Barbara Nightingale

My father has never made an effort to memorize how my name is spelled by Elisabeth Blair