On Loving Helen
one. All of this was written in the stars.
Don’t think for a moment that you are the one
holding the pen. Don’t think for a moment
that the skies aren’t already laughing.
two. When you first see her, she will be light
refracted, splintered divinity, some unlovely portrait
of a goddess misremembered. Go home.
Ready the ships. Practice swallowing the sea.
three. You won’t remember much about the war.
All you’ll know for certain is that now and forever,
every word you say will be a battle cry.
Every day you will be careful with
your earthquake hands.
four. She will not let you touch her
at first. Instead she will ask about
the city, burning. The men turned to ash.
She will ask you if you remember their names.
five. Your voice does not drown out
her beating heart. Your words do not muddy
her pulse. Come to terms with this quickly—
no, it doesn’t get easier. Lay down. Be still
for once in your life. Let her tread over your chest.
six. Love will arrive unannounced
on a Friday night; love will catch you trembling.
Love will take the golden apple from your hand
and into its mouth. Love will smile.
Love will bite down.
seven. You will bleed.
eight. When you watch her sleeping,
as you’ll no doubt do, convince yourself
she is a statue. Tell yourself
the swan’s egg she was born in never cracked.
Call it marble. Call it pure. Someday
you will stop looking for the lie.
nine. Recall that you are being watched
and the fates are getting bored.
At night you think you hear them,
passing the scissors back and forth.
Don’t let them fade you to black just yet.
You owe her at least that much.
ten. On the bad days, show her your hands.
They haven’t unlearned the cataclysm
that they are and will always be.
The ground beneath your feet
will still bend for them. Tell her
here I am.
eleven. And remember: you will bleed.
By Christina Im
Christina Im is fifteen years old and attends high school in Portland, Oregon. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Rose Red Review, Words Dance, Strange Horizons, and The Adroit Journal, among others. In addition, her work has been recognized by Hollins University and the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.