SPOTLIGHT: Half-Life by Valerie Braylovskiy

Nightmares in My Diary

Am I still good, she asked
her grandmother by her bedside.

Spending hours in sweat
secreted with lavender perfume.
Hours dissolved in bed,
feelings transmitted.
Contagion is a risk,
her grandmother murmured.

Validation was still necessary.
She had not yet acquired the
eyes of arrogance and walked
with oblivion in front of schoolboys.

Am I still your child, she asked
one night.

Words are only images. The airplanes
crashed over oceans and the deer
lost their mothers and the bed ran away
and the children grew up.

Identity Theft

I run with your toes on which
the midnight bugs feast.
You don’t care, jumping through
overgrown tick fields in overalls. Smudged
with fuchsia footprints, you button yourself.

Pronouns are muddled and
pitted like unripe cherries. Clothing is mockery
worn inside out when you have lost an I.

Self Reflection

Do you remember the little girl who screamed mommy I am lost as the grocery store retired for the evening. It is best not to provoke the children whose mothers abandon them for organic kale.

Or perhaps you have seen the girl who was a princess, dipping salami rounds into orange juice as the class recited the national anthem with acid-burnt mouths. Carrying her grade school intelligence on her hips because beauty was not a choice. She could never spell beautiful and you cannot be what you do not know.

In later years, I was her. The duplicate of thirteen daughters enrolled in a school of daughters. Desperately proper in tight jeans unbuttoned under the dinner table while our mothers spoke about corporate corruption and city scandals. Her jeans bruised and abused my hips. Tall girls could not wear jeans and capris had recently gone extinct. I was not an evil child, but I shrunk her denim by accident.

Accidental, was it, when we met and I disappeared into your scars. Grazing my skin, open the wounds to heal blood vessels. We donated our flaws to one another. I was you.

Then we were driving along the highway and you told me I was me, a teething girl-woman-human. You drove me home in the fast lane, while I prayed for our lanes to merge. Now I am basking in beauty, which I learned to spell under the sun.

Open Wounds

Sunlight bruises broken joints.
Where we walked, I flinch.
The light turns green
and I suddenly resent
my pedestrian identity.
The sidewalk waits
for no one.


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