When he told me I was an entire universe,
while I sat on his lap in a dark room
lit only by the glow of a TV.
He gathered me in his arms and marveled
at how he could hold such vastness
between his own two hands.
“It feels like you’re inside my body,”
he whispered and squeezed tighter and
tried to meld two into one
like lonesome clumps of wet clay.
He wanted to know, needed to know
if he was crying as he touched his face
like one would test hot coals.
I told him, “You’re not and it’s okay”
Until it wasn’t.
His pupils were huge and kept growing
like meteorites falling from the sky
into gray oceans. Too high tides
splashed the sea out onto his cheeks
and with it, monsters crawled
from the voids in his eyes.
A siren wailed from across the room
and an orca ate the ottoman.
I told him to shut his eyes,
to staunch the flow of fears
pouring into the room.
I blotted his cheeks, but it was like
sticking my fingers in the crack
where the ocean sprang a leak.
I watched him drown in waters I’d never swam.
He was a tsunami clinging to a buoy
tethered to the ocean floor.
Madison Rahner is an undergraduate English major at Coastal Carolina University with plans to pursue a higher degree in creative writing. She currently works as a barista and has been previously published in the Oyster River Pages. Her other passions include beekeeping, embroidery, and cats.