​​​​​​​And Mama grew up young down in a town

where the children flung rusty nickels and

dimes at the open mouth of industrialization.

Where morning came, and girls pressed braided

dandelion stalks under the rocks

by the highway—swollen fingers burying together

infirmity. There, the kids always

had a liking to crack bruised knuckles and yank

broken wisdom teeth from their jaw.

Rip apart each three leaf clover into four, and

shuffle a deck of pockmarked poker

cards at recess. And it was in that spring, when Mama

turned fourteen that she learned

what it meant to be a woman as free as the sweat

that slicked in her thighs. How to

spit watermelon seeds for contraceptive, and how

to occupy the full distance between fear

and sinew. Twilight, and Mama stayed out in the creek

alone, peeling strips of skin into

clementine, pale body riding the dark.


Sarah Lao

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