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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