Long ago I captured the porcelain visage
reflected in a store mirror, sealed the sharp
contrast of eyelashes against cheek in a stop bath,
fixed her fast in smooth paper. Almost permanent.
Now she gazes at me defiant and innocent, pouting
as if to ask why? why do you keep me here?
And I have no answer, can only offer up the aging
backs of hands, the tarnished veins in my wrist.
I suppose I wanted to keep a piece of my youth.
Oh, we like to break our hearts like we break our backs, lugging loads far too heavy for such slender young spines. We shoulder a debt larger than a car, a house, an education. We sleep deep in guilt’s arms. We carry a thousand stories dying over and over, but haven’t yet learned from their losses. It’s hard to know where to place the most painful words. Day in and day out the sun sets into our chests, stomachs full of food, yet empty of sustenance. Wishing not to melt into the crowd of those with bitter mouths, those without laughter, those who turn their heads. And like this, we inherit the world.
We are young and beautiful.
We are young and dewy-skinned,
lithe and full of future, hope.
We buzz electric and fill pages
with yearning. People say you
are beautiful, but for now
we don’t believe it.