When the Heart Needs a Stunt Double

When my mother said the word divorce

in response to my asking where my father

was—after she’d said, he won’t be back,

I asked what the word meant, because

the closest association I could make to divorce

was diving horse, an image to make sense

of fairytale magic plunging from its own


dead weight. That day, having come home

from school where my father usually

asked what I’d learned—I learned

I knew little—me, bedside—she, propped

by pillows, reading, barely looking up

said, It means he’s never coming back.


I remember the whirl of confusion,

as if I’d heard a story read too fast

to comprehend its meaning—trying

to figure out how my father could

make such an exit—no goodbye—

the way a child might wonder how

the horse climbed so high

to take its spectacular dive.


Photo Credit: Preben Gammelmark via Creative Commons

About the author

Diane DeCillis’ first poetry collection Strings Attached (Wayne State Univ. Press, 2014) has been honored as a Michigan Notable Book for 2015, won the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award for poetry, and was a finalist for the Forward Indie Fab Book Award. Her poems have been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, and Best American Poetry. Poems, short stories and essays have appeared in CALYX, Evansville Review, Minnesota Review, Nimrod International Journal, Connecticut Review, Gastronomica, Rattle, Mizna, and numerous other journals.

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