If a milky bath softens
my skin. If I’m desperate to feel
a hand on my bare
body. If I turn tangled hair, tendrils
of repeated hymns,
dispersing: be still & breathe,
quietly. If frothy seafoam &
freshwater pearls & sharp
knives: dulling. If the girl held
her breath under water
for as long as she could. If there
are some places from which
we can never return. If humming &
pulse quickening & chest
rising. If someone took her. If
there are some places she’ll never
talk about. If there’s no reason
to worry. If the porch light
stays on all night. If there’s too much
fabric, the dress
dragging, collecting bone
fragments, the before &
after. If this happens
all the time. If there’s no reason
to be afraid. If we probably should
be anyway. If cracked
porcelain, no—black spot
on lungs, spreading. If harder &
harder to breathe. If fingerprints
on throat. If anyone can turn water
holy. If that’s what I told
my reflection in the fogged mirror: we
swim deeper & deeper & deeper.

Ashley Mares is the author of Maddening Creatures (Aldrich Press, forthcoming), The Deer Longs for Streams of Water (Flutter Press), A Dark, Breathing Heart (dancing girl press), and Killer (Ghost City Press, forthcoming). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Stirring, Whiskey Island, Sugar House Review, Glass Poetry Press, Prelude, PANK, and others. She is currently completing her J.D. in Monterey, Ca, where she lives with her husband. Follow her @ash_mares.