after The Birth of Venus by Botticelli Our voices hurled like stones across the sea between us, amplified by empty rooms. Night after night, that lightning strikes the tree. We smolder down to embers and the fumes swarm like a cloud of hornets overhead. Our glacier melts against a mountain range. We march like wounded soldiers up to bed, eyes still as snipers. Nothing seems to change. Doesn’t the choice seem simple? Stay or leave. No knife can cut us clean, not anymore. I’ll tell you the truth: no lover would believe that Venus simply coasted to the shore. Dragged by the breakers, gasping, draped in weeds— Love claws through jagged waves toward what it needs. Ashley Anna McHugh won the New Criterion Poetry Prize with her debut collection, Into These Knots. Poems from her new manuscript, How to Burn, have most recently appeared in PN Review, Literary Matters, The Hopkins Review and 32 Poems.