Five Seconds

kami westhoff

Believe it or not, it was a relief.
My screams had tendrilled my throat,
croaked my once honey-butter voice,
made every word frantic as a last.

I learned to crave the sound of my own silence
while my mother and sister winced and whimpered
like ghosts with nothing to haunt. They couldn’t stomach
me, my eyes smeared in shadow, moon-smooth skin
where a mouth once moaned.

I was five seconds out of five thousand,
but you filed me like a childhood tragedy,
where I surface when you think you have it worse.
It’s a blessing, really. Knowing I’d never have to say
what I saw made the seeing easier.

I know I scare you. Make you wonder what
you could learn to live without: your tongue
translating touch into taste, words you spoke
instead of swallowed, or maybe your teeth,
how they could warn, how they could weapon.


Kami Westhoff is the author of Sleepwalker,winner of Minerva Rising’s Dare to Be Contest, and Your Body a Bullet, co-written with Elizabeth Vignali. Her work has appeared in various journals including Meridian, Carve, Third Coast, Passages North, West Branch, and Waxwing. She teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.