Elegy for Catherine Howard
my small bird, my ocean
pearl, your image comes to me
only in moments of great
thankfulness. Only when my cup
runs over with every
thing you never knew: A mother
to touch your wrist, a night to sleep
in, a boy to look at you—
a boy who is not a man, a boy
who does not call you wife.
In these moments, your scissored
body is there. All cotton, all velvet,
all of sixteen and gone yet.
In your age of downfall, I
had a summer thick with promises,
sticky as an orange peel.
In the pink of July, my sisters
and I swam in an ocean too blue
the water was more intimate
than a womb. It cradled our unfettered
bodies, tumbling like otters in the waves.
What a gift it is to be young
and unburdened. To hold the wind
in your palm like a pearl.
I love you because I fear I know you—
in my mother, in my sister, in every
girl who has had a man turn
away from her
and then back again.
When I have a daughter,
I will tell her everything
and nothing. I will sit
at the foot of her bed, and pray
she never grows pretty enough for
silence. When I first take her
to the ocean, she will swim with the native
freedom of a seal.
I will watch her in her lightness
and imagine you, somehow
unbound, somehow gliding.
Blessedly oblivious to what a
miracle it is to be part of the salt
and the sand.
Emma Camp is a third-year student at the University of Virginia studying English and Philosophy. Her work has been featured in Moledro Magazine, SugarRascals, Rookie, The Blue Marble Review, Alexandria Quarterly, Venus Magazine, Hermeneutic Chaos Journal, Glass Kite Anthology, and Inklette, among others. Her work has also been honored by Hollins University, Gannon University, The Alabama Writers Forum, and the Jane Lumely Prize.