by Kami Westhoff
That August, smoke stitched itself to each breath’s tunneling wisp.
The lush lungs of your three-year-old tarred half-pack-a-day dark,
the veins in her eyes cragged crimson. The west was burning,
and without your repentance, your boyfriend said, you would too.
Afterward, your daughter said she didn't understand why your face
was blood-burst when her father told her to kiss you good-bye .
Or why your body, whose arms had lifted her when something
she wanted was just out of reach, or held her back if that something
might hurt her, why it was rooms away from the lips that kissed better
every bump and bruise.
By mid-September, your daughter’s lungs were crisped clean
with the ocean’s exhale, her sclera once more white as bone.
The sky in the west again unflawed—nothing marring its blue
but the scribbled edges of pine trees and moody mountains.
He claimed he didn’t want to hurt you, but couldn’t argue
with a god that’s always wanted you dead. Always wanted
your blood a dark river beneath the earth’s scorched scars,
your body just the soil that swallows it.