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

 

 

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

Thin skin

Selfish is vanity, thin skin needful of blubber to resist the freeze. For years in the future, what will it matter, if you were plain?

Some of the best people have warts, kankles, pot bellies, their radiance is not in exquisite feature.

So Freckled Girl, wishing you had fuller lips, higher cheekbones, darker skin; remember … when the lights go out, we’ll all have to learn brail.

Touching our way by coral reef, they said, things of love couldn’t live in the dark, without spotlights and balster.

Yet I suspect you couldn’t love me more if I were every kind of gorgeous creature, for the dream we inhabit began before we found shape and color and calcium.

When we swam informed and feeling, in warm soup, passing by the delight of one another, as rubbing softly, life is evoked from so little, as branches create friction and in time, fire.