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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

 

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It’s not that they are hiding—

it’s more that they know

the power of a red dress.

Between slabs of red sandstone,

the tiny yellow green flowers

of the desert paintbrush

decorate themselves

with bright red bracts,

colorful flame-like spears

that attract butterflies,

hummingbirds and bees.

 

It’s what we do to survive,

those of us born plain,

those of us otherwise ignored.

I think of the homely girl I was

who wanted to wear

gold combs in her hair

to the middle school dance,

as if something shiny and bright

might attract the honey boys.

 

I want to go back to that gym

with its streamers and balloons

and take the gold combs

out of her mousy brown hair

and tell her the brightest parts of her

are inside. I want to tell her

that being a small green

and yellow flower

will serve her.

 

I want her to know

that a day will come

when she’ll walk in the desert

and feel so at one

with the cliffs and the scrub brush,

the lichen and the Mormon tea,

and that in that moment

when she loses her sense of herself

and merges with slickrock

and paintbrush and sky

it is then she will be most beautiful.

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And coming closer, I catch a familiar scent

and lean my head in the open window,

breathe in, and I am sixteen again, and Peter

is sitting beside me and The Russians Love

their Children, Too is playing on the tape deck

and we’re singing along, the windows are down

and the night is warm and we’re finding a place

in the dark where we can park and practice ways

to fit our tall thin bodies into the tiny back seat.

And it’s summer. And I love him. And he loves me.

I’m downshifting and he has his hands up my shirt

and we’re laughing and we have no idea yet

just how much it will hurt when we learn

that love is not enough when it comes

to scripture and doctrine and who marries whom.

No, tonight, it’s just me and Peter and the generous

dark and Sting and the indifferent moon.

 

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Two Chairs

 

I pull out two chairs. One for me.

One for the girl who didn’t want

to become a woman. The girl

who, at night, would use tweezers

to pull out any hairs that tried to grow

where her skin had always been smooth.

The girl who tied a bandana around

the small lumps of her breasts

to keep them from growing.

The girl who wanted to believe

she could stay a girl. I know

she would rather be outside

by the lake, fishing. Or exploring

the woods, looking for treasures.

Or making potions out of bark and grass

and berries in her mom’s old silver pot.

But she sits here with me, awkward,

slouching a little to pretend she isn’t so tall.

She tells me she wants to be a poet. How she

loves to play with words. How she knows

the other kids tease her behind her back.

How she sometimes thinks she might disappear

into light when the sun streaks through the clouds.

I just listen and nod. I know exactly how she feels.

I know she won’t believe me if I tell her

she’ll lose the battle with the hair.

That the bandana trick worked, perhaps too well.

That the joy she finds in writing will never leave her.

That she’ll forget the names of the kids

who teased her, but she’ll always remember

what they said. And despite all these tethers,

she’ll learn to disappear into the light,

to give herself completely to the world.

It will be so beautiful.

But for now, this reluctance,

this longing to remain a girl,

this certainty that there is magic

here in childhood that she never wants to lose.

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On Second Thought

 

 

 

 

Love, yeah, sure but really

it comes down to damn hard work.

I might have told that to those younger

versions of ourselves if they’d asked

what makes a partnership last.

But they weren’t asking. Too busy

building fires and climbing peaks.

Look at them, stars in their hair,

rivers in their blood. They look

so awfully happy, don’t they?

Shhhhh. let’s not tell them.

They’ll find out soon enough.

 

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