A lasting transformation
Our only child has transformed into a starfish. They called it a compulsion, then a desire. Limb by limb, eye by eye, they replaced the body we gave them. Is this worse than puberty? I can’t ask. Our child speaks starfish now: chemical excretions and spindly touch. I am as ignorant and useless as they swore in their youth I was.
I replay the memory of their birth; the way they twisted and turned until the doctors were forced to pull them from me, red and quiet as a given echinoderm. I’d wished for them, like any parent, the same pain. The same joy.
Despite every hoop we jumped through to bring them into this world—a curious, if heedless, human—I would swear that I only ever wanted our child to live a life all their own. A white lie; dormant and unchallenged for years.
My spouse lowers our child into a tidepool. I put my mouth to their tube feet, kiss their prickly skin, inhale their new, briny odor.
In the distance, a buoy. Beyond that: an unspooling swatch of sea.
Suppose our child wakes up one day and transforms again? I’ll have no way of knowing. The ocean is bigger than I could ever be.
DJ Hills (they/them) is a cross-genre writer for the page, stage, and screen. They are the author of the poetry chapbook Leaving Earth (Split Rock Press) and their play TRUNK BRIEF JOCK THONG was shortlisted for the 2023 Yale Drama Series. Other writing appears most recently in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Poetry Online. Connect with them at dj-hills.com.