If I Didn’t Show
by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

If I had kept my bones beneath my skin, his life would not be over. His jersey would still cling to victory-moistened skin. His scholarship intact would have carried him through court—my time in the hundred fly irrelevant at best. If I had worn a longer skirt, we never would have met. If I had never changed my mind by waking from my alcoholic fugue, there would have been no “no,” no evidence of crime. If I had woken only with lacerated skin, my trauma would not bleed through any dermal layer or make memory a plasma that pulses into daily sight—the color of his sheets, the shape of his strikes—but stay deep and inflame, occult until my lymph nodes show. I might never beat that infection, but bleeding has to end. If I forgive, the clots may grow and break away to lung or heart. I will not choke for him again.

If I can feed my red, my iron, my water to these trees, will their xylem carry pain to the edges of their limbs and burden them like mine but let their needles grow richer green? Or will I only add to mineral rivers that carry temperate soils to the sea? Can a canopy signal the human to whatever flies above?

IMAGE: “The Red Tree” by Piet Mondrian (1908).


Elizabeth Kate Switaj
 teaches literature, creative writing, and composition at the College of the Marshall Islands. Her first collection, Magdalene & the Mermaids, is published by Paper Kite Press, and her poems have recently appeared in The Humber Literary Review, Potluck Mag, and Typoetic.us. Visit her at elizabethkateswitaj.net.

PHOTO: The author at Seatac Airport (Seattle, Washington), on the way back to Majuro (Marshall Islands), January 2016.