Only child

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I’m sitting in a linoleum room with ghosts, specters and occasional stranger

a girl with long legs like a foal, is pulling elastic pink lines of gum from her full mouth

and snapping them back, loudly

I wonder if I have ever sat so evenly in a chair, if I ever had peach hair, light on my skin like that

it reminds me of my friend who competed in gymkhanas, we made up our own horses, hers was called Mars and mine, BeTwix and we ran

so fast our hearts thundered up her grandmother’s hill in the La Roque-Gageac

her legs were like those of a foal,  even at eleven, the waiters watched her with wet lips

I think of The Object Of Beauty, how Liv Tyler gleamed, coming out of the oval swimming pool

What men must think when underage girls begin to fruit.

My ghosts routinely tell me, I am without worth, they remind me if I had anything worth having

my mother wouldn’t be absent

a life time of inadequacy, wouldn’t be my legacy

I disappoint myself, not just the ghosts, sometimes I think

I don’t belong in this American world, where women are proud to work sixty hour weeks and go the gym at 9pm

still feeling they haven’t worked hard enough.

I think I am forever running in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine, with my imaginary horse

watching a girl turn into a woman, aware of too much even then, and not enough

the specters mock my lack of confidence, whispering in my detached earlobe

nobody likes a wuss, confidence is the American calling card, haven’t you noticed?

Even silly people and indifferent people get somewhere, if they believe in their

silly people and indifferent selves. And brilliant people, who doubt, will fester

like a ring someone lost in a river, glitters too deeply for marbled birds to

pluck it out and restore to light.

I lost a ring once, you’d given it to me when we were 14 and I didn’t have coltish legs

or peach fuss on my skin, but rather, the strong bones of a kid who drank milk with her cereal and got a stomach ache

reading Asterix at the pine breakfast table, with her stuffed toys.

I can still hear the plastic clock and hum of the washing machine

a warm symphony of my childhood, as I delayed leaving for school

and the inevitable crush of humanity, I had long decided was not for me

in fact, my trajectory was so far from that world of push and pull

competition and attention, fan fare and nose-pick small talk

I inhabited the after school hours like an addict of one

rejoicing in the quiet and empty spaces where

my mind could roam and gallop

sometimes I would sit on the roof tops of outdoor storage buidings

eating my soggy paper bag of sweets, stuck together from being

crunched in my pocket, head stuck in a book about

beautiful places with kind people and fantastic things

wild roses growing like thoughts from arching cracks

in concrete, their soft heads and sharp thorns

not the decapitated baby bird, I buried beneath the acorn tree

its silvered blind eyes, swollen and bulging

wings pressed like cries of regret for having never spread

in flight

something horrifying in everywhere you looked

like the terror you feel when you realize you are truly alone.

That kitchen clock would change day and month

but never really the precision of its emptiness

I learned it is better, to rely upon fantasy and avoidance

than the pinch and grope of society.

Often, a stranger would ask

why are you playing outside so late?

I would run away into the eclipsing shadows

behind the corrugated iron fences that separated

the good neighborhood from the skeletons

those bombed, bleached, bones of former homes

where a kid of twenty years ago had lain

watching paper airplanes cycle

above their head, clutching something with glass eyes

and faux fur, as I still did

funny, to find some comfort in the inanimate manufacture

of nature

my toys looked at me in the darkness and spoke

words of love, I needed to consume

their salty fur held

the cups of my early disenchantment

when teachers commented on my red eyes

I said; hay-fever and they believed me

because I wore a dragon tail

this was surely an adjusted child

with avid imagination

cantering alongside her friend

with the honey colored hair and long bare arms

absorbing sun like a shining fruit

I knew then how different I was

how quiet pain, how loud silence

my mother always looked so beautiful in

floral dresses with her trim ankles and long neck

I, the stranger behind her

admiring and shameful in her artlessness.

it was among the lost in forest, I claimed my place

when first love failed, when promises became

paper envelopes containing no letter

dishing out school diner and homework

leaving my scuffed shoes at the door

I climb

into the ivy

away from the party

a reflection I see of myself

gathering stillness like a blanket

she is fetching her best smile

for the emptiness of years

staring into emulous clouds, watching

for signs and miracles and unspent words

the sound of others laughter

rinsing through tall green shadows

like echoes of

someone else’s life

 

 

And that someone was you

Most of my life I had a steadfast rule:

only date people capable of love

who have the courage to show you their heart

preferably girls who wear glasses, have larger hands, broader shoulders

it was a thing you see …

to stop me feeling like a beast

I had been told repeatedly when little

you’re a damn ungainly child

look at your monstrous Frankenstein shoulders

see your long white witches fingers

myopic squinting from behind trees

coke bottle glasses, badly cut hair, missing front teeth

that’s what I see, when I look in the mirror now

the girl with a fistful of neglect and a dragon tail.

I felt like a freak from the get-go

patch over one eye because it was lazy

wetting the bed into double-digits

work on your personality child it’s the only damn thing you’ll have

I was the girl who lived in a coal filled basement

eating would-be-diamonds in French

going out at night picking flowers before they saw sun, turning them into moon shine

then you broke all my rules

in that way you have, that’s unapologetic, visceral and bittersweet

you with your California tan and your miniature temper

you with your indigent words about love and how

some of us just don’t go there

I’d been hiding in my coal mine most of my life

my mouth was blackened from eating rocks, my teeth all broken

you shone a light on me and said

how about being something different tonight?

what would it feel like if you didn’t need promises

what did they bequeath you anyway?

egalitarian, aiming in the same direction all the time

repeat the pattern, more the fool

how would it be, if you left your rule book at home

tripped the light fantastic with me?

I’d built up my arguments for everything

they hung in rows like early Danish tulips

I didn’t want to be an ungainly laughing-stock

didn’t want to be the spectacled girl people rejected

don’t want to be told I was no good anymore

you showed me; if you stop having expectations

just let go, then you’re free

I’d spent my life reacting to what I’d seen

my handsome father sleeping around, my mother’s absence

promises broken, lovers lying, the torture of romance

now I realized, it’s not cute anymore, to keep repeating bad patterns

how about you do what you want for a change?

I wanted you

as much as I’d wanted anything

I wanted this moment

not tomorrow or yesterday

but now

I wanted your cocksure attitude and

the relief of your certainty, things don’t last

I wanted the sell by date and the last dance of the evening

because I’d be the one taking you home

and you, you were fresh-faced and confident

like only a girl who is sure of herself can be

with your straight back and your ballerina’s neck

it took this long to find out; I’d just been following ghosts

not letting myself out of my own trap

to feel the circumference and shine of life, without fear

find in my escape from self-hate, a world outside rules and confinement

something real and

that someone was you

for 24 hours or a year

suddenly time didn’t matter or what people avowed

you see, nobody knows, and nothing is real

except now

you and me

a girl with dragon tail and penchant for seeing

the glitter of sweat on your thin collarbone

As you may imagine

She was known as the girl with the waist length hair

The girl without siblings

The girl with turquoise eyes

She had a 23 inch waist

Those were the paper cut emblems of her life

She was vain

Though not empty headed

Her vanity was a poor replacement

Covering up loneliness and uncertainty

Perhaps if she’d had children, the size of her waist

Would have seemed so trivial

But she stayed in that sticky fingered past, sucking on old boiled candy

Where teenagers plume and forage

Because she found no other purchase

And that was sad and pathetic and lost and theatrical

And it was understandable

To those who like her

Watching themselves through glass

Like half packed suitcases

No hope chest

Using the acutrements to fill empiness

With

Costumes and colors and measurements

Because what her true circumference was

She had no idea

And how people could love her for more

Than the length of her hair

Or her green eyes

Or the width of her waist

She couldn’t fathom

Having only been

Nothing

Then no one

Then an object

People commented on

And touched her hair

And fit their envy around her waist

And smiled into her big eyes

And then

That attention gave her meaning

Shallow and superficial

Like eating too many chocolates

And spurring the taste

Swearing never

To gorge again

But she would

When the obscurity of being alone grew too much

She’d wear a fine dress

Put on eyeliner and lipstick and heels

And suddenly everyone saw her

And she was not a girl in the shadows

Waiting for her mom to come home

Or anyone

This

Is

The

Reason

For

Vanity

It’s not always as simple and egocentric as

You may imagine

One hand

s-l400

At fifteen a lewd boy, only 5’5 asked;

Will you pose for me with your legs spread?

She hadn’t shaved in three days, the stubble rubbed the backs of her calf where she pressed against enamel bath

A maelstrom in her eyes instead of pupils

He said; good, good, excellent, just like that … ba-aby

Now … Open them

And she remembered the first time she unfurled

Like those Chinese paper flowers that grow in water

A warm rose bud disturbed by prying fingers

She recalled the way unwanted thumb pealed her exposed

A fruit chewed on before ripening

The sting afterwards

Like she’d dried out all her moisture and hung like a salted fish to be slapped and dismissed

If she gave this boy, with sweat on his lip instead of hair, his hand down his pants yanking something terrible, a rolling storm, tattooing bruised landscape

His way would become her path

What would be next?

Can you scissor yourself over my friend and lower down like a stray bullet?

We’ll make money and you’ll have value

I’ll take care of you, afterward you can pretend it didn’t happen

We’ll smoke away the taste and I’ll move inside you until you release

Regret

It’s easier to prostitute yourself when nobody has your back and you didn’t learn how

To save yourself, to feel your worth

The sabotage within, so achingly familiar

If I do it’ll be like every other time I ruined myself over nothing, you say

Feeling deserving of the pain, shame is a funny fellow, makes you quite attached

When you’re adrift and running on empty

Who knew how easy it was to ruin a child?

Set in place, steps of greater sabotage

She could feel their sticky fingers on her thighs

The voices murmuring, it’s what you deserve

Sickness in a learned desire to be debased

On her knees being ridden like a horse, the riders

Grabbing her innocence, one handful of hair at a time

Til she was all used up and another empty set of eyes

Waiting for the next fix

She saw herself at thirty, dying in an empty room

And the boy who encouraged her now, high on himself and the vigor of youth

Didn’t know how easy it would be for her to tumble down the rabbit hole, he only thought of

Getting his cock sucked and how he could brag if she’d pose for his fantasies

She wasn’t his, she didn’t want to be the next hole, willingly bent over

She wasn’t a plastic doll or his fist, she didn’t exist for him to spank himself off

Her image was sacrosanct, her body inviolate

Her legs weren’t going to open and be his willing whore

Just because she felt empty inside and his thin flattery pretended to assuage, all the pain and losses

That wasn’t her path

He didn’t get to see her center or hold her up for inspection

The fine line between loss and lost is not so fine

She stood up for herself for the first time and learned

What we do, matters, impacts us, stays like a cancer

Life already hard, she needed all the breaks she could get

It began with leaving and not looking back

At the boy holding a camera in one hand

Mandala

girl-in-nestIt was her habit

to keep secrets

never betray a confidence

and

find it hard to trust

those who were over friendly

with compliments and kind words

often the first to loosen arrow

better then to step back

stifle trust sufficiently

take time to know the measure

best found

when things are not golden

but a helping hand is needed

to pull the drowning man from his wet

fall

then we can be sure

they’ll not let go so easily

the bearers of trust

turning softly against

intention like a water

wheel will clothe itself

in the voices of the well

and rise up

shaking itself off

to the turn of life again

breaking spells

of divination and miracle

all ephemeral against

the reliability of turning

in circles creating ever

increasing circles

cast like spring flowers

against the frost