Exit signs hang above every door, but I do not obey them. The lavender walls of my bedroom, baby-soft, lull me into sanctuary. In the hallway, my mother leaves cold fruit and a letter. It tells me her childhood friend’s husband has become a billionaire. We cannot pay the electric bill. Under a lightless roof, I split ripe grapes and expose the flesh with impatient teeth. The seeds lie fallow in a sealed throat.
I fold myself in the sheets and speak with the deer skull my father once brought home. It whispers in his voice about a bullet’s kiss and the caress of a knife’s edge, glints of solace in a long dark. Hearing the hum of a lonely moon, I open my window and throw the head out into umber woods. Everything falls on it. Endless needles, endless snow. The fossil breaks more easily than I under the pressure of winter.
I, too, fall apart,
year after year, until spring
will awaken joy.
Jemma Leigh Roe has poems and artwork published or forthcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review, Permafrost, The Ilanot Review, The Fourth River, and others. She received her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Princeton University.