what bends and bends and never breaks?
what scares my terrors from my sleep?
what soothes my skin and my tired bones?
what circles the earth with all his glow?
it's you, my sun, my source of light.
you smell like burnt sugar and warm towels.
i'll hold you tighter, even if it hurts
it's about my mother.
in a way, it always has been.
about her smile on my face,
her face on my face,
my face on hers. it fades with age.
i'm told i laugh the way she laughs,
but it's not true.
her laugh is like the clouds, clearing after rain
and mine is like the sun.
her eyes don't crinkle anymore.
she doesn't open her mouth and yell about being happy.
but i'm not sure she used to.
i can see my face- her face- in old photos
surrounded by friends, stolen moments
happy to be imprisoned in ink.
so now i don't have my picture taken.
and neither does she, even though she says i should,
that i'm pretty and i should remember it
even though i won't.
all i can think about is her.
isn't she pretty? what changed her mind? is my face good enough?
am i good enough?
she runs her long fingers through my hair.
i remember pressing our palms together,
laughing about my small hands.
they're not small anymore- no more reason to laugh.
i can never stop looking through her eyes.
two weeks- then she germinated
small green sprouts breaking, against all odds,
from the small brown cage around them.
two months- then she made me smile
her leaves had grown in beautifully
everyone stopped by to complement her
she couldn't find it in herself to be shy.
eventually, she began flowering
and, by all the gods, she smelled sweet
it felt like a sin to adore her as much as i did
a sin! so a sinner i became
and it went on like that.
she'd change, and grow, and change again
and i'd find something new to love
the way she looked, her freckles, her laugh
and when she was ready- the way she tastes
i wanted to devour her
red skin breaking under my teeth
undeserving of someone as sweet, as delicate.
instead, she continues to grow
i wanted to say because i let her but
it is her nature to outlast the likes of me
if only there was a way to show her i loved her
without destroying her
i stand on the bar, glass in my hand doing little to keep the sweet liquid in it
"this one's for me!" and they all cheer.
and in that moment they're all rooting for me,
they want me to fulfill my dreams, reach all my goals, be happy.
and this one is for me.
the me dancing with strangers, more alone than ever
the me dying on the cold bathroom tile (i found her hairtie in the back of a drawer)
the me screaming at everything i love, begging it not to love me back.
this one is for me.
when i graduated high school
when my mother uttered the elusive "i'm proud of you"
when i finally, finally stopped trying to **** myself
this one's for me!
when i stood after dying in the bathroom
when i saw the cuts on my legs and i wasn't scared
when i said "i love you" to a dancing stranger and i meant it. i still do.
this one is for myself, and the wet, sticky bar beneath me agrees.
one a child, always a child
even when we are no longer children
those children's hearts linger inside us,
hidden away in the corners of our lungs
like russian nesting dolls.
that child's heart still beats under layers of paint,
chipped and dirtied, remaining hidden,
these dolls, so fragile,
a most earnest gift, so small,
its paint so peeled and disfigured now
yet when our larger hearts are removed,
peeled back like the rings of old trees,
carbon dating the ways we protect ourselves
can we ever go back to the beginning?
to when the paint was fresh?
to when the wood wasn't rotted?
when vibrant joy and sorrow and
anger and jealousy and passion and
heartfelt tears could be easily expressed,
but you've carved another doll
her smile especially wide, stark white,
it shines against the dull colors of her dress
she doesn't dance in, not like she used to.
i wake in the easy dawn, i forget my place.
you spread your arms, your wings, adjacent me,
bright light in your eyes, in your teeth, your fragile heart.
dust pools in my hair and in my sheets.
where were you?
ash coats my tongue, strawberry memories turn to stone in the back of my throat.
the bed is grey. the bed is empty.
i remember my place.
— The End —