you exchange your dreams at recess each day
swapping your journal with hers and sharing
leftover orange slices from her lunchbox.
today, she says she missed you
while you were out sick
and you don’t know how to tell her
you dreamt she held your hand on the swings—
you lie and say you don’t remember. it was the fever.
she says, reading a horoscope’s easier than believing in God
you agree. at least the sky is more forgiving.
winter constellations ebb and wink
to the two of you, it’s charming— you, oblivious
to how each star burns with a million furious half-lives.
in the flux of the atmosphere
you spy Venus,
she waves, sends her blessings from above.
eyes flicker open in the middle of the sleepover,
orange peel scraps litter the bedroom
ablaze with the hue of her soft stray hairs.
you still can’t tell if she’s a seraph,
sent in light and absolution
or the thing manifesting in sleep paralysis,
seething from the corners of your eyes—
this is what hungover feels like
slurred words, fizzing, incoherent—
realizing you might be *n l*ve
isn’t all it’s chalked up to be.
you think: is this who I am now? do I have to be?
as you dig orange rind remnants from under your nails.
tell you the truth, mom: I don’t know how that got there.
the notion slipped into you in fever dreams,
your family asserts—
your cells turned over, all mutated
and the illness made you new.
you rise from your sick-bed a new sinner
and your mother says she misses you
her daughter, her only child,
you know you can’t go back.
you’ve seen her manifest in visions and mirrors
discovered the absurdity in womanhood and
found solace in that sin, as they called it,
loving her all the same.
she hands you an orange slice
lighting candles in the kitchen, says—
any good dreams, angel?
and you tell her about the swings.