On a vacation in Maine
night terrors arrived without warning
call of fog horns
echoed across the water and the cry
of my child shook the floorboards, rattled
the window panes
It gets easier
they all say, but what they don’t tell you is
no previous pain of motherhood prepares you
for the next one. Nothing prepares you
for the weight of your child
flailing in your arms, caught
between sleep and not sleep, screaming
I wrapped my arms tighter around him
and it made no difference at all
In the distance
a beam of light
swept across the water
a fixed point
I watched it
as I held him to my chest
rocking side to side
Toes dig into sand
she’s in the surf
how would it feel
to let the wave
to the pull
Overhead, a seagull calls
no—not a seagull
back on the beach
coated in sand
the sky behind him
awash in orange
pink and purple
How many sunsets has she missed
when she should have been
Claire Taylor is a writer of poetry, short fiction, and the occasional essay. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous print and online journals including Capsule Stories, Sage Cigarettes Magazine, Dreams Walking, and Canary Literary Journal. She is the creator of Little Thoughts, a monthly newsletter of original stories and poetry for children. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland and can be found online at clairemtaylor.com, Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor, and Instagram @todayweread.
Snapshots of a Girl Detective
In this one, the girl detective is three years old, sitting at the top of the metal slide at the community park down the street. The girl detective has her eyes closed tight, her mouth puckered. Someone is waiting at the bottom of the slide to catch her. In the photograph, you can see the outstretched hands, long-limbed shadow reaching across slide face.
In this one, the girl detective is getting a ribbon pinned to her chest by her second grade teacher. She has solved the mystery of The Missing Lunch Money, she is a hero. All the other children linger in the background. None of them look her way.
In this one, the girl detective is at the sea. She has just ridden in her first airplane, she has just watched her father stride ahead of her and her mother, swirl of his thinning hair bobbing above other heads, she has heard her mother say tropical, say beautiful, say the ocean is so beautiful, the sunset is so beautiful. The girl detective is standing in the beach sand looking out over the foam-crash waves and, in the photo, the wind has just blown a piece of her long hair into her mouth. She is caught here, forever, just starting to pull it out.
In this one, the girl detective is shaking hands with the mayor. He is a smiling man with a special smile just for children, especially children like the eleven-year-old girl detective who apprehended the Shoelace Slayer, the girl detective who will get anonymous letters until a week before her fifteenth birthday, we are coming for you, the girl detective who shakes the mayor’s hand limply. Like a dead fish, he’ll think later, washing her touch off his hands, and only he is smiling when the photograph is taken. The girl detective watches him with fox-bright eyes.
In this one, the girl detective is just a baby, red-faced and clench-eyed, was I ever that small really, how could I have been that small, and she is peeking up from her bassinet, she is wearing a little ruffle bonnet that had belonged to her mother since she was a baby herself. The bonnet is laced under her little round chin. There is someone in the photograph with her; you can’t see their face, only the side of one hand that the girl detective compares to the outstretched hands from the photo with the slide, are these hands the same hands, do these hands belong to someone who loved me.
In this one, the girl detective is in her black concert dress with the pinned-up hem, tremble-kneed in the back row at the choir concert. The girl detective is tall and her voice is thin. She is singing with the other kids, all the pretty horses, she sings, you shall have all the pretty little horses.
In this one, the girl detective is standing beside the school gate with Thomas from chemistry class. The shadows of mid-afternoon surround them; they are on their way home. There is a smile growing on Thomas’s face, the girl detective’s long hair brushing against his shoulder. You can see the outline of her profile in the photo, her delicate nose, her toothpick fingers. You can see how Thomas wants to reach out to her, how he nearly does.
In this one, the girl detective is looking out from her bedroom window into the dark sky, the star-filled faraway sky, and she remembers thinking I am not alone, remembers thinking there are universes and universes and universes, and someday I will find them. She turns over this photo, the last one in the manila envelope, and reads the note in block letters on the back: We are coming for you, girl detective, and the photographs all come spilling out of her hands.
Cathy Ulrich doesn’t keep physical copies of photos anymore. She kind of misses going through piles of them from time to time. Her work has been published in various journals, including Empty House, Black Warrior Review, and Pigeon Pages NYC.
blueness in wind songs
lately, a piece of me turns blue as the wild
moors blow a violin wind towards my feet
which are stagnant. my home comes to me
in the late spring, when the winds hold my
face in an embrace too too lonely, all the
blue in me seeps into the rivers i bathe in
with nymphs. every morning i wake up with
my body an inch above my bed, my hair
hurriedly braided with the plants that turns
my cheeks rose. who wanders with bones
that rattle inside you, lay your head down
on my lap. let the world know how i miss
you more than anyone. there are silent
conversations of the eyes written down
somewhere. all the corners you have sat in,
i will stay with you in them.
Hamnah is a Pakistani university student mostly found tucked in corners of libraries. She loves petting cats, reading, and fresh fruits. She sometimes cooks and thinks of writing about food all day. She also loves writing on human connections and South Asian history.