“Whorls” by Paisley Green

Before you move out of state, I vigorously study you in profile, furtively staring at the slope of your nose, the wave of your beard, your forehead freckles, before you spot me in your periphery and turn to ask, “What?” It’s hard to stare at you head-on; paradoxically, it’s more intimate without your gaze returning mine.

Inexplicably, I think that if I just memorize the curve of your ear, that means I really know you, that maybe keeping you in my memory is the same as your body being here. Your left ear is slightly pointed, sun-speckled like your arms and face and shoulders, grown so familiar in these past months. In the minutes before you wake up, my own sleepy eyes scan the pink whorls of your ear, imagine the delicate shell of your cochlea picking up the vibrations of my breath nearby. Inside, your three tiny ear bones—the smallest in your body—turn these vibrations into little ripples in the pond of your inner ear. You’re deep underwater, asleep.

The room lightens with the rising sun, turning the top of your ear translucent and pink. I know you’ll be up soon, and we’ll cook breakfast together, go hiking, fill our days and avoid talking about your impending departure. So I don’t have to say it head on, I whisper close to the rosy, freckled curve of your ear: “Stay.”


Paisley Green is a writer, editor, and teacher based in Portland, OR. Beyond reading for Moss and managing social media for Random Sample Review, she spends her days writing about everything from microbiomes to youth during the Holocaust to personal histories of the brain. Her work has previously been published in TRUE and Atticus Review. You can find her tweeting at @thanatopsis__

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