“Fishing” by Cassandra Rose Clarke

She stands on the bow of his boat,
one hand on her hip, the other
dangling with a cigarette,
ember burning dangerously close
to her fingers. The waves pound
an endless rhythm that reminds
her of her heart, so calm inside her
chest. She lifts the cigarette,
a rising star through the
darkness: a reverse wish.
Black water, black sky. No stars
reflecting in the swelling waves.

Don’t, he says, and she steps backward,
off the bow. For a moment she hangs
in the air’s liminal space, her eyes
tilted toward the infinity lurking
beyond the stratosphere. The cigarette
singes her skin. And then—

she slams into the water,
and sinks, one hand drifting
lazily toward the dark spot
marring the moonlit surface,
where he waits, trying to understand
what she wants him to do.
In her free fall the ocean is a
galaxy, a swirl of points of light,
eyes watching her in the darkness. For
the first time, she sees clearly. For
the first time, she sees him. He reaches
for her, his arm stretching distorted
through the water. Too long, too thick.
It curls around her waist, a touch
she has longed for since she read
his name in a book so brittle it crumbled
beneath her clumsy hands. In the darkness
everything brightens, and she gasps, pulling
the salt into her lungs, letting him pull her body
toward the surface, where everything is a lie.

She throws her head back, arcing drops of
water. Her waist burns from the touch of
his true form, now hidden. She laughs
at him, standing on the bow of his boat, thinking
he had her fooled. For she has seen the stars of his
world, and she knows she will wind him up
like the tentacle of an octopus around a silver fork.

Cassandra Rose Clarke‘s work has placed in the Rhysling Awards and been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Pushcart Prize, and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. She grew up in south Texas and currently lives in Houston, where she writes and works for Writespace, a literary arts nonprofit. Her latest novel is Halo: Meridian Divide, out now from Scholastic.

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