All in by Kami Westhoff

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.   


Kami Westhoff’s chapbook, Sleepwalker, won the 2016 Dare to Be Award from Minerva Rising, and her collaborate chapbook, Your Body a Bullet, was published recently by Unsolicited Press. Her work has appeared in journals including Meridian, Carve, Third Coast, Phoebe, West Branch, the Pinch, and Waxwing. She teaches creative writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.