and this I’ve never told anyone—

the winter after we bought the house

I took you down to the creek 

which seemed safe enough

when I was young

Not quite three,  I guess

you didn’t know the terror of stop

(you rarely learn things that aren’t 

shouted) and I didn’t have the breath for it

slipping on mud walls where footpaths used to

ease towards the water, lazy barefoot steps

between weeds and rock patio, beer cans and

graffiti, puddles cupped in rocks where we drowned

minnows, trails I knew by taste

on my silt-caked toes

Once, I thought you could grow up

this way.  That I’d teach you the lingo 

of cicadas, the sanctity of creek-stink

the way that trees hold down the dark 

even at noon, the way things slither and crawl

how currents     tug, but not enough 

to scare you (as long as it hasn’t been raining

too much, like when August storms in, the way the water 

eats at the meadow then, erases it, and keeps coming

like everything you know about boundaries 

is ignorance, like how they didn’t tell me

boys died in that water, goofing those summer

swells, they only said be careful

 it’s deeper than it looks) I should have listened

to a mother’s instinct

he’s too little, no one knows

where we’re going, maybe February is different

maybe things have changed

the way the house has 

bigger cracks

smaller rooms, and all the ghosts gone quiet 

in the years that I’ve been gone  but I was full 

of everything I had yet to show you I was once

a girl 



the spine of a frozen creek

an initiate

in the secret middle 



 earth tree bones       and sky

once I walked in the crystal palace quiet

of suspended life—

I knew what magic was

and I wanted you to know it, too.  

But you are not me.

You tend to play inside, now, and how can I tell you

that childhood has a way of not staying 

how you left it, that things erode, give out

like trails gnawed down to edges, that you

sometimes find yourself alone

stomping inches in the snow, while your mother learns

that fear tastes mud-cold, like creek ice

that feet can forget how to speak

to the ground once you step away

that time

like falling 

happens only in the one direction. 

Shannon Connor Winward

is the author of the Elgin-award winning chapbook, Undoing Winter. Her work has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, The Monarch Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Literary Mama, Flash Fiction Online and elsewhere. In between writing, parenting, and other madness, Shannon is also an officer for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, a poetry editor for Devilfish Review and founding editor of Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal.  Learn more at

Contributions by Shannon Connor Winward