I’d had nightmares, but I wasn’t ready. Just last week he loved me so intensely, his eyes memorizing my face, the curve where hip joins body, my clumsy human limbs. Now his kindness made the pit yawn wider. He kept telling me it wasn’t my fault. Everything about me was perfect—he hoped I’d find some man who’d treat me with the love and respect I deserved.

I wanted no one but him, with his quirky smile, that slight lisp when he got excited, the circle of his arms as he read me his poetry. That day when I flung myself at the water, trying to get back, he’d fought the waves to carry me to shore. I couldn’t breathe. His boyish face looked anxious as he begged me not to leave him.

I felt as though my legs had been cut off at the roots. I couldn’t eat. I spent hours in front of his picture, lighting candles. Crying so hard the candles died and I felt that burning again, as though my lungs were being consumed, air’s fire.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the sea. My life, my poison. The green-lit world that held my death. Exhausted, I answered each time love called me from his new love’s house, for the stale substitute of his tears.

Long ago, my father’s face had streamed as he blocked the door, his voice breaking as he begged me to stay. I’d swum past him without a word, thinking to find love. Now I wade knee deep in ocean, the waves black beneath the moon. The undertow pulls me with the strength of the love I’ve lost. Desperate to return, I hear only my father’s curse, thrown back to me in the breakers, for leaving him.


*Previously published in Full Unit Hookup: A Magazine of Exceptional Literature, Issue 9, Spring 2008.


Contributor Notes: Adele Gardner’s first poetry collection, Dreaming of Days in Astophel, is available from Sam’s Dot Publishing (, keyword search “Gardner” or “Astophel” to go right to it). She has had poems appear in American Arts Quarterly, The Cape Rock, Bibliophilos, The City Primeval, Bellowing Ark, Z Miscellaneous, Status Hat, and more. Much of this occurred under her previous byline, Lyn C. A. Gardner. You can find out more about Adele by visiting her website,