The way desire could wind around
me like a cat around my legs,
a purr loud enough to drown the no
right out of my mouth, the soft fur of it
scratching, tripping me up.
He never once asked if I was happy,
and when he asked me to become his wife
the NO inside frightened me into a small yes.
And while I lied and the too large ring was floating
towards me over the clear water,
I saw the birds of paradise, stiff and orange,
splayed like flaming wings wide to the sky
above the nearby cliff, and I wished I were braver,
a bird of paradise—alone and arcing,
not this false bride afraid to wrest myself
from the lie of my life, afraid of the backlash.
Which happened, and soon, stripping me nearly down to bone,
but not that day; that day was cool blue ocean,
sharks slow swimming beneath us,
a too-large ring, a terrible fear,
the false smile which confused the photographers,
and that premonition of doom.
Meghan Sterling’s work has been published in many journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Glass Poetry Journal, Literary Mama, and Enough: Poems of Resistance and Protest. She is co-editor of the anthology, A Dangerous New World: Maine Voices on the Climate Crisis, is Assocate Poetry Editor of the Maine Review, Featured Poet of Frost Meadow Review’s Spring 2020 Issue, A Dibner Fellow at the 2020 Black Fly Writer’s Retreat, and a Hewnoaks Artist Colony Resident in 2019 and 2021. Her chapbook, How We Drift, was published by Blue Lyra Press in 2016. Her first full-length collection is coming out in 2021 from Terrapin Books. She lives in Portland, Maine with her family.