Come here. Stand in the garden. Let me throw lemons at you.
Let me fold you into this paper plane and fly you
around the room. I’ll crash you into every corner
until you sense burden. Every morning I say put on a bra
and every morning I do not mean it.
I do not understand this part of myself. I am consumed
by hands. I break
your ribs in an embrace that is more apology than bicep.
What if we crawl like babies
through the rooms of my youth. I’ll show you the guardsmen,
the lines I stood in for pills tipped beneath my tongue.
We can sneak into my bed with the metal door.
I’ll pull out my diary and the places my mother hated
me and the knife I kept in my desk.
Come here little one, my green-eyed valentine.
What will happen to you when the world stops
loving you. Should I walk out of the room
or should I lay on the floor and listen to you cry.
I never know.
I never know who I am when I look at you.
You look just like me and I look
just like her. This year, I painted flawless
red valentines on your cheeks,
not the beating throbbing thing I could hear in your chest
when you were small enough to hold.
Twelve years ago, I held your infant body to my ear.
I heard a different sound
and I knew then not to cut into you
so that I could pull out parts of me. I must
remember that this year,
how your heart makes the sound
of a different heart. A still there heart,
even though I can’t get my ear close enough to hear it.
Let me back into the closet of my chest, between the ribs
and the empty space of motherhood. I have been crying.
Kelly Gray (she/ hers/her) is a writer living in Northern California. Recently, her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Southern Humanities Review, Northwest Review, Trampset, Passages North, and Newfound, among other places, and she is the recipient of the Neutrino Short-Short Prize from Passages North and the ArtSurround Cohort Grant. Her collections include Instructions for an Animal Body (Moon Tide Press), Tiger Paw, Tiger Paw, Knife, Knife (Quarter Press), and My Fingers are Whales and Other Stories of Cetology (Moon Child Press). You can read more of her work at writekgray.com.