K A M I   W E S T H O F F

​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

​U N S P E A K A B L E

Think of it as a game, he tells her. Which one would you choose?
Children glide by on figure skates, carving unspeakable
letters into the ice. The pond has frozen for the first time
in twenty years. Tree branches quiver and still, their roots
petrified beneath the freeze.
He grips the back of her neck. It's a dozen degrees below freezing,
but heat spills from his armpit onto her shoulder. She's a week
into her second trimester, out of the danger zone, her doctor promised,
so they are here, her husband’s idea,
imagining their future.
Two girls slide by holding hands.
Their curves carve arcs into her canals, toe-picks wedge
like a cough in the hollow between ear and throat.
She can tell by his breathing he's smiling.
His hand descends her spine vertebra by vertebra,
while his breath forces the air visible.
One girl loses her balance, and she’s on the ice
before the other can save her. He is beside her--
the pressure of his touch on his wife has evaporated.
He lifts the girl, holds her while her feet scramble.
Her scarf a cursive scar on the ice. He kneels to retrieve it,
thighs thick and sturdy as stumps, loops the scarf around her neck,
and her cheeks erupt into a pink he will misread.
The girls skate off, their giggling splits the air,
scatters into silence. He looks to his wife,
his expression a sour on her tongue,
says, That one, that one, that one.

Kami Westhoff's work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Meridian, Phoebe, Carve, Sundog Lit, Stone Highway Review, The Madison Review, Prism Review, The Pinch, and Passages North. She teaches Creative Writing at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.