Forest Fire

I think of my mother’s hands and the weight they must have carried
when I was a little girl. Plump cheeks filled with pink roses
and a small nose good at sniffing out the bad,
I hung my head in a quiet uncertainty and humble silence.

The first time a boy called me ugly, I had bruises on my knees
half covered by navy blue knee socks. I never hated my black boots more.
I felt my flesh suck in the poison of my first disgrace,
of my first lesson on what the word “shortcomings” mean,
and the burning in my cheeks led to widespread fires,
scorching the small temples of self-love each girl is born with
but often abandons during moments like this for safety from herself.

I thought my bruises were rainbows,
and I thought my face was a garden.
I thought my mouth had the strength of a lion’s den,
and my small hands would terrify the gods.

When my mother saw her baby girl had tear stained cheeks,
I suddenly smelled burnt wood in the nape of her neck.
Her world had long been demolished, but her love could create a city anew,
and she would be damned if someone took away her hard work.
Her hands felt like hammers and nails, her words acted like iron beams,
“You look a doll, an angel. Your porcelain skin will not crack
as long as I live.”

But she saw it already – the shattering earthquake
spreading that dark plague through my network,
bringing down my city walls and causing chaos in my heart
as each small effort cracked, falling into the shadows
as I heard her knees buckle and her spine creak like dry wood
when she lifted me up to save me from the fire
that already destroyed our homes.

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