by Emily Rose Miller
I came of age amongst woods and marshland with campfire ashes
in my hair. I ran through fire rings' thick smoke; it wafted higher
than the cypress trees' swaying moss. I haunted pineneedle-covered
limestone, white dust coating my worn shoes the way queer loneliness
coated everything those days. But I wasn't alone, just afraid.
I heard voices laughing muffled in tents atop chalky earth
but like a cautious deer every laugh seemed a bullet
intended for my conquered hide. There was no room under the humid,
open sky for a kid like me, half girl half unnameable swamp creature
with a monarch uttering in my stomach every time I looked at a girl.
Under dry palms I almost felt content, but I was the purple swamphen
building twisted mangrove nests in barren roadside estuaries.
Or the cane toad, too confused to hibernate in Florida’s increasingly sweltering
winters. Or both, maybe, meant to be home and not belong.
Emily Rose Miller (she/they) graduated magna cum laude from Saint Leo University where she received her BA in English and is currently earning her MFA in creative writing at the University of Central Florida. Her work has been published in Capsule Stories, PopMatters, and Red Cedar Review, among other places. Find her online at emilyrosemiller.com, on Instagram @emily.rose.miller, or in real life cuddling with her cats.