For the First Girl I Loved by Helena Mesa

For the First Girl I Loved

I lived across the street—across two streets.
The cemetery lay behind you, a field of stories

stretched behind a thin row of trees: there
this silence would mean a louder silence,

the sinking of stones, roots tracing their fists,
knuckling the soil. Someone could hover,

talk seemingly to no one—words meant
for someone else. You loved stories of

the past—pioneer girls doing the right thing
in flower nightgowns, a sister saved, a white lie

righted, and you always fell asleep to
whatever hands I whispered were reaching

through the window, the lie you never needed
to forgive. In the morning, you made instruments

for whatever surgery I imagined—a doll’s arm
scratched my stomach; a plastic fork

raked my shoulder, then spread salves.
Your fingers trailed the soft fold

of my elbow—skin and head
tingling, and then, a stillness

so unexpected I begged you not to stop.
And when the V of your collar dipped low,

the pink tip of your scar appeared
swollen, raised. I willed myself

not to finger the ridge
stitching your cracked chest shut.


Helena Mesa is the author of Where Land Is Indistinguishable from Sea (forthcoming from Terrapin books) and Horse Dance Underwater, and is an editor for Mentor & Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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