welcome home, starling

you are safe now



a myth in two weeks of text messages


0. Prologue

I had been planning to send a poem each night you were away. Then I walked past that really good lingerie store. So. I’ll send your first snapshot before boarding begins.



The saleswoman handed me a velvet hanger draped with something outlandish and red. She nodded knowingly and vanished, leaving me white and incredulous beside the gilt-framed mirror. There was no number on the price tag, only a name: Amaryllis.



The flower, like so many, was once a timid nymph. Timid and twitterpated with some beautiful shepherd. Some boy, flung far afield. A desperate Amaryllis sought advice from the oracle, who said



Turn up the heat in heart-stopping, electric, fire-engine red. Gorgeous stretch lace cups offer structured support with hot satin ribbon detailing.



How pleasurable the afternoon half-hour spent sprawled on the white comforter, arching alone to get the right angles.



Night after night the nymph appeared outside Alteo’s home and opened her robes. Pleaded: Shepherd, see me. Pierced her bared breast with a golden arrow. Rained red droplets on his door.



You should have seen me, centering the lens on the red ribbons dripping down my sternum. The penumbra under well-supported breasts. The lay of scalloped silk between them. The light on golden eyelets. The corner of a smile on rose-madder lips.



The other nymphs noticed that Amaryllis had begun humming around sunset. She dreamt all day of the darkness, of the slow slide of cloth from a shoulder, the coolness of moon on her skin.



Finally one morning Alteo opened his door and found a spectacular little red flower. Petals splaying, hot as blood. Pulsing for want of him.



Pulsing, anyway.



Dear shepherd, I have wanted this, your eyes roving over these slopes.



Amaryllis will grab attention and never let it go.



But other eyes are lingering longer on this lingerie. Eyes that looked in the viewfinder, widened, and looked longer. My eyes. My incandescence. How strange to see.



I’m glad you like them.



I’m glad, anyway.



Author’s note: Italicized portions of text were taken from product descriptions for the Mimi Holliday lingerie company’s “Amaryllis” collection.


Kate Horowitz is a poet, science writer, and essayist in Washington, D.C. Her poems have appeared most recently in Qu, Quail Bell, and Bourgeon, and in the book Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems About Inanimate Objects. She tweets @delight_monger.