jo unruh


There’s a statue of you, marble-white, taller than you deserve. Some days, when I look into those stillborn and distant eyes I wish for a knife, to scratch them over and over again until they see only spiderwebs and scars.

I fell in love with those eyes first, before anything else. When they found me trapped in the maze of myself and offered me dreams. The night before we ran we sat, two women on stone steps, and when we looked into the endless sky, you promised me a crown of starlight.

I sit at the edge of the water now, watching the horizon. When we were here together, the setting sun was your touch, leisurely and warm and caressing. Tonight it is brambles and thorns, long and hot and scraping across the surface of the earth, of my skin.

The statue is too heavy for me to relocate anywhere else. Too heavy even for me to push forward, leaving your teeth full of moss and stones. Sometimes I rest my palm against the cool slope of your shoulder and try anyways, knowing that I will never win.

Before you met me, I had nothing in my hands but my skein of string, twisted relentlessly, forming and reforming. My feet were bound by my own blindness and fear. I wished I could leave a trail so I could crawl along my path of string, so I could find myself at the end of it.

The purpling dusk is my comfort now, like a bruise, soft, and swallowing me whole. I wish the gods would see me, save me. I wish I could save myself.

Even on the days when I leave your statue alone, keeping my back turned for hours and hours, I can still feel you here. Sometimes I can feel your eyes rolling in your white-marble skull, watching me as I work, but no matter how quickly I turn around they always roll back to their same fixed horizon-gaze, seeing past me and past me.

 Before you met me, I followed the trail I left with the string. There was a monster waiting at the end.

I cultivate what I can from the land, feeding myself on whatever I can find, whatever I can grow. The berries are my favorite, but even when I am careful the brambles scratch at the backs of my hands and my arms. Sometimes I do not notice until later, and the berries are stained with dried speckles of myself.

There have been two days, I think, when I have crawled beside your statue and wrapped myself beside your calves. I threaded my hand through your slender fingers and wished they were not so cold.

When you met me, you followed the trail I left behind. You held the string in your hands and walked until you found the end. You found the monster. The monster was me.

The stars start like promises in the sky. Maybe I don’t need the gods to save me. Maybe you taught me that.

Your statue, I think, is not from now. There is a future where you are a hero. A woman who saved a woman, defeated a monster. When it first appeared, weighty and white, I knew your story had completed, somewhere, and I know the ending you wrote for yourself.

When you met me you held out your hand and I found your eyes and I let the string fall to the ground.

And we were happy, you and I. We found a home here and I thought we had a future. But you said you had a dream, a vision. You left in the night, under the stars you once promised me. You followed a new dream but forgot, or perhaps simply forgot to care, that you were mine.

I stand in front of your statue again. You gave me what I needed and I will not forget. I close my eyes and press a kiss against your forehead, and your skin is cool and perfect beneath my lips.

Perhaps I was not meant to be saved from myself.

I lift my arms and dance like I used to, before monsters and mazes. I snap the string between my toes and twirl in the darkness, in the starlight. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I start to dream again.



Jo Unruh is a Minnesota girl living in the Windy City and a current MFA student at Columbia College Chicago, where she focuses on writing plot-heavy fiction. She is overfond of strong cups of tea, lakes and oceans, and skies brimming over with stars. Her work is published or forthcoming in Bluestem, In Parenthesis, and Psychopomp.