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Poem #11

June 12, 2008

It’s mosquitos swarming and the screen door slapping against the hickory frame as my body is stretching out of girlhood and into the burden of a woman’s maturity, fourteen and already more than aware of life and the fact that it’s cruel like the bumps bubbling up on my ankles, despite swatting or scratching or all this blood running from these wounds like the lifeline of Christ.

My mother told me she loved me the day before she left, gone for four months in a place where cell service is spotty, but I know the truth: she didn’t want to deal with how long my limbs had grown or that I no longer had breasts, more like tits. Now with eyes trained to the rusting gate, I wait for rescue from this familial compound, a place I am not wanted but endlessly needed, like an early morning wake up call from a receptionist when you’re crashing again in a Knights Inn double bed infested with bugs, far from home.

Punchdrunk and waiting for the other shoe to drop, I am choosing to ignore the maelstrom inside and am rooting into the rotten steps to weather yet another storm, right on time at half past five in a cloud of bright, beastly diesel tearing through the living room with blue-collar precision that begins to growl into being until there’s nothing to do but stay still and hope to splinter up enough that the sun filters through the thin layer of epidermis that holds everything you actually own close to your heart hurt, strapped together by scar tissue and holding out for hope that it’ll be enough shelter to weather another storm.

And when it’s not, I’m stranded again in the middle of pitted earth, looking straight into the sky, decomposing while still breathing, now learning that nothing but weeds can grow where nutrients can’t reach the roots. I’m telling you now, if I have to pick one more thorn from my soul, my skin is going to catch fire and I’m going to turn into a sun then implode into nuclear fission, staining the sidewalks with the shadows of a past that’ll linger on much longer than me.

I am that first plant growing in the disaster of Chernobyl, irradiated and strong in the newness of a thing made from folly. Do not eat of my clichéd fruit because I can’t promise that I won’t make you sick. Check back in 10,000 years when I’ve turned into a pomegranate tree, cut me open, and expose the sickly sweet seeds and crush them beneath your tongue; please, leave the rind behind and let it feed something else, or squish my membranes against your wounds to help heal them fully. But really, leave me to filter the radioiodine, useful alone, whole at last.

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