When We Were One by Jen Gupta

Those years were yellow –  
a summer sun flirting with bedtime. 
We could talk to birds, we could speak cat. 
The shed in the backyard was our secret 
home. We hid blankets and 
plastic teacups filled with wild berries 
inside the old wheelbarrow 
so Dad wouldn’t find them on his search 
for a garden shovel.

Each day we woke with the first peek 
of light, the cicada’s first hiss, to wipe
the tear drops from the grass.
Mom liked to sleep in, so we got to skip 
breakfast. Sometimes we hid 
during dinner too, too busy 
to heed the bell. I don’t ever remember 
eating, not in the intentional way 
like we did later. Back then

we were tattooed mud and scab,
our hair always a knot 
tying us together when we biked 
too close, so that the wind 
couldn’t steal our voices. We wore 
the metallic scent of half-dried blood – gifts 
from unforgiving rock landings,
and the tangy stink of bug spray
that stung our open bites.

It was before I left for school,
before we were given separate
beds and times and before I stopped 
tucking our babies’ plastic limbs 
into their cardboard cribs each night, 
before my skin knew how to feel cold,
before my muscles could tire,
before things turned

our years black, tore us open 
and then apart. We were the most 
us then, when we were 
more like one, our bodies, 
tiny tanned vessels, moving 
the only way they knew how,
the way that felt like breathing,
the way, I think,
we were meant to be. 

About The Author

Jen Gupta is a middle school English teacher, avid hiker and horse lover. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband and their seven houseplants. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic, The New Verse News, Sledgehammer and Wingless Dreamer.

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