He glances at his battered Nikes, losing track of the ceiling count
Deep breaths, then his head pounding on the table
No one notices, except the silent one
The one with eyes like a glaive
They’re not friends yet; he tries to recall how many times he’s heard her voice
But she watches him, her coat billowing behind her in the wind
the upper flaps forming a cowl.
She’ll appear later, when he’s shopping for earbuds and distraction
When connections begin to interlock and reinforce
Her hair will seem different. The whole frame of her face,
although it could be the light
She’ll write her list in a journal, the feathery smudges of her pencil
blurring what she had intended
He’ll ask her to tell him something
And when she confesses she longs to be a fighter pilot,
she’ll exhale heavily, glowering at the birds circling above and say
“It’s as close to flying as I’ll get.”
In the weeks that follow
her aqua contacts flash a desperate need to no one in particular.
She fishes about in the small bag around her neck for her jadestones,
or at least a temporary release.
She says so little, but the angry crimson dragonscale marks down her face and arms
fume with fresh ache every time a muscle flinches
She is not in a position to be preached at
“It’s just a scratch,” she says
He blocks her path
“It might be your bones next time. It might be your eyes.”
She smiles at him and threatens to burn his house down if he doesn’t yield
Their association pauses, sealed with what could be tears
but it’s impossible to tell
In the air above him,
a bird swims through a painted sky of dusk
cooing a tender song of promise
The young man watches for a few minutes before dropping his gaze
The bird stares at him, then flies off before too great an understanding is shared
for they both understand
“Glaive” was originally a short story, written many years ago. It concerned two college students–one a writer, the other a painter–who accidentally fall in love, although the girl is already in a relationship, and she doesn’t know how to leave.
While the song is about a child younger than Anica was, I wrote the majority of the original story listening to Suzanne Vega’s “Luka.”
Although the story garnered positive reviews when I workshopped it, it never quite felt like I’d gotten it right. It was written at a time when I didn’t understand much of anything about abuse, and even less than that about mental illness (which was a subplot). I’ve rewritten and repurposed it here as a poem, and I think this version is much closer to what I’d tried to capture.
As a college student, I read a lot of Sailor Moon. One of the characters, Saturn, carries a weapon called the Silence Glaive. It was generally used as a scythe to fend off attacks, but when dropped without words, the glaive was powerful enough to destroy a planet. However, doing so would also cause Saturn’s death, so it could be used only once. I imagined Anica felt that leaving was the Glaive she couldn’t figure out how to drop (with the subsequent metaphorical “death” being followed by her new life).