Elegy for Catherine Howard

Emma Camp



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

for comfort—


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.