Stories on the edge of familiarity
Growing Pains

Growing Pains

I have a shell I hide my heart in and sometimes I imagine
what it would look like if I pulled it back and stepped out
and I am afraid

I have a curtain around me and it keeps all the light out
it’s warm in here and very cozy but too small to straighten my legs
and I am afraid

I have a wall built on the skin of my arms and it’s heavy
but whenever I wonder if it’s time to peel off the bricks and move
I am afraid

The sapling grows when the seed drops from the tree and, after a season, dies
I have roots
My toes reach deep into the ground and have found the water that’s swollen my home
and I have grown
But now I feel my skin tearing and I’m afraid of what might happen when the light pours in
Even though my green head and arms stretch to meet that explosion of nuclear fission
I have all the tools to thrive
But it is damp and close in here and out there is the wind
So many seedlings die
Here I am held and there I will have to fly but I feel the mold around me
Either I die to become
or I die
and all I want is more time to not decide
Before I have to meet the atmosphere whose turbulence will teach
My woody spine to hold me tall
But I don’t know if I’ll discover when my world splits if I have wings

I have shutters built of fine wood that I have never pulled back except in the last few months
to see through the window I have set in my heart that I could walk through if I tried
and I am afraid

I have a blind of crayon-covered papers taped together and I don’t have to see anything past them
except I don’t want to become nearsighted so sometimes I walk past them
and I am afraid

I have an elegant case for my heart filled with velvet and closed with a lid
which I can open to show myself off but which I was always meant to leave
and I am afraid

The baby bird takes flight only after falling from the nest that held it tight
The caterpillar turns to liquid until the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis to dry its wings out
and I have wings
It took them a long time to form, but I can see them, long and white and beautiful
The dampness in here keeps the feathers clumped together
and the space is too small to spread them and measure their width
being underground, I can’t test them
But they are strong
They move with powerful strokes when I let them
Ready to carry me beyond and join me to the wind above and through the storm
The rain, no longer mediated by soil, will wet my face and the thunder shiver through my bones
I will land, bare feet in the grass, to taste the honeysuckle and smell the wet earth
When the sun sends fire into my veins, my skin will soften to touch another’s face
so that, this time, the lightning is inside of me
And the whole world opens up to me
I explore the upper reaches of the atmosphere and the valleys of the sea, seeing things
that a seed in the dirt can never see
And I am anti-Pandora
I hold a vase and am told to open it, but I stare at them with the lid shut and cannot speak
my voice is inside the clay and it’s time to come out
and they tell me again and again to break my casing and fly
so I grew my roots first that they would let me touch the clouds and, beyond that, the stars
I have plans to swim the colours of nebulae and float in the energy of a galaxy’s core
to dip my hand in the ocean and pull out a sphere of burning hydrogen
I play with the solar wind and the waves of gamma radiation
circle and leap with the dance of the full to overflowing, misnamed vacuum of space
And a coconut tree takes three years to lay its foundation
before the leaves ever break the soil
and it occurs to me for the first time that each seed grows and each vine bears its fruit in season
a child in the womb cannot be rushed
if you had never seen a coconut grow before
would you have pleaded with it to sprout the moment you thought it was ready
only to find that nothing you said would make it grow
it would come in its own time?
So of course you would worry over a seed you’ve never planted before
and each human-plant is different

I have a too-small coat with a broken zipper and it splits along the seams
there’s a new one waiting for me when I slough this one off
and I am not afraid

I have a quilt on top of me that kept me from shivering when I was smaller
but it doesn’t do much good now that I’m bigger and it makes me overheat
and I am not afraid

I have a sign here telling me that I have to be so tall to jump off the diving board
this summer is the first time I’ve had all those inches
and I am not afraid

Bring on the growing pains.

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