Gone Lawn
a journal of word-things
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Gone Lawn 54
worm moon, 2024

Featured artwork, Capitol Reef Wash, by Kathleen Frank

new works

Donna Vorreyer


In the mirror, I test the elasticity of the skin along my jawline, inspect dark spots, rough patches, search for myself, see only Plath’s terrible fish. Some other creature. The boat sways and I stumble. Skin-kneed and stiff, I crawl to the edge before leaning back into the warm blue. Here, fin-propelled and salt-borne, I find a modicum of grace. Here a weight lifts. Here in this muffled world, I am a different being.
In the mirror test, a creature is anesthetized, marked on its body in a place it usually cannot see. Presented with its reflection, if it investigates the mark, it is thought to possess cognitive awareness. To see not some other creature, but an altered self.
A giant manta ray appears from cloudy nowhere, her white cephalic fins curled to headlights. Sleek black dorsals kite the water, and I tread to watch her pass, all supple undulation. A flag to which I would pledge allegiance, she is everything I am not, some other-worldly entity.
Only a few species have passed the mirror test. Great apes. Orcas. Dolphins. The cleaner wrasse. The Eurasian magpie. A single Asiatic elephant. And the ray. Intelligence. Agility. Slow aching loveliness. If given a mirror, she would know herself. I wonder if she would know herself as beautiful.
Other snorkelers splash to catch sight of her, but she banks away to deeper waters. I swim back toward the boat, engulfed in a school of fusiliers, a congregation of scales. They change shape with me, around me. We become a flickering amoeba. A new creation. I ascend the ladder, not a terrible fish. Just a different one. Me, changed. Not some other animal.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of three full-length poetry collections: To Everything There Is (2020), Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), all from Sundress Publications. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Harpur Palate, Baltimore Review and Booth. Her visual art has been featured in North American Review, Waxwing, About Place, Pithead Chapel and other journals. Donna currently lives and creates in the western suburbs of Chicago and runs the online reading series A Hundred Pitchers of Honey. Website: www.donnavorreyer.com