Inside the chapel I spent many hours
just looking, at the walls, through
my clasped hands at the ground, at
my thighs. I was young
and didn’t know too much, except
you were only beautiful with the bones
coming to the surface, like a body pushing
against the face of a frozen lake. A body
I ran from, some day in December
after pulling my best friend out of the water,
not from her, but from her voice, which was screaming
my name. I hid from my name
though it clung to me softly. Like drops of lakewater
to my skin, tears to a false eyelash, asking
to be held the way water holds a girl
even when she doesn’t want to be beautiful anymore.
Lies, unlike life rafts,
don’t float. And just like everyone else
the difference between me and unlovely sank
to the bottom: she fell in slow motion
chasing it the same way sinners chase
prayers. The way the lifeline lingers just out of reach
of the drowned. We were static,
clutched in silence and heard the lake calling.
Clutched in ashes, the woods or the chapel burning,
but never both. The chapel never quiet enough.
I stared at the water dripping from her hair
and it was so loud I put beautiful aside
and tried for alive instead. Didn’t know
there wasn’t an answer, just wrung the lake
out of her ponytail, held her like the anchor
she pretended to be. Didn’t know
dear God was another way to say life raft,
or tell me the way to lovely is to breathe.
Inside the chapel, I wait. The girl stumbling
from the fissure. The bones or the ice or both
melting away by sunlight. Inside the chapel,
another hour looking, light drifting through the body’s stained-glass windows.
By Kaylee Jeong
Kaylee Jeong is a high school student from Portland, Oregon who is still trying to know her way with words.