My best friend tells me that
the birthmark on my neck is sexy,
but it lands in my ears like freezing salt water
or the knife in my sink, sticky with the core
of an apple. I have a freckle
just above the left corner of my mouth
and I never remember it—
sometimes I look in a mirror and cringe.
One corner of my box-of-a-room whispers,
“Why would anyone ever love you?”
when I’m falling asleep
and suddenly the light on one wall
makes the other wall look darker,
and I can see the scuff marks of scraped off paint
where someone banged against the wall.
I didn’t originally want my bed in that corner,
but I let my best friend and ex-boyfriend
convince me to put it there.
But we can’t choose where our freckles go;
sometimes mine disappear or reappear
with the sun’s unhealthy glow.
There must be something in me worth loving;
if not, maybe I’ll at least show someone
who they don’t want to be.
There were days when I’d slither down
the side of cliffs to the ocean
and touch the rocks stained with salt and scales.
If you leaned down close you could see white spots
of bird waste but also flecks of light—
even the hardest rocks can be beautiful.
It hurt to run my hands across the scored surface
but I did it anyway,
musing about all those who have touched me
and stayed despite the roughness.
When he declared that we were broken, unfixable, I lay on the floor and tried not to throw it all up. I knew what we were somewhere, that
blood didn’t tie me to this earth.
There is something bigger
calling me to love—to breathe
is to wait for the person
flexible enough to deal with
my itching fingers
and neck wrenching behind.
What we are was
done.” I told him. “I think we should break up. We’re waiting for something that should have already come.”
“You are a strong, delicate flower.”
She says it to me,
and I say it
as I look at my face
coated with my color.
When I scrub,
it comes off too easily.
I think about how
quickly I ascend
from joy to regret,
beauty to plainness.
I am delicate,
and I choose to be,
and I am. I am strong,
and that is what
blooms, and I am
also cruel and selfish.
I’ve said a lot of things
I didn’t mean
when the night
is winding down
wind and blue
should stick longer
than my makeup,
but they wash away
as quickly as time
tells me to find
new soil, to grow
boundaries, to pierce
myself with my thorns
so I change.
is so hard when
I’m trying to prove
that I’m worthy
of being loved.
When I’m pruning
these petals for their
softness, I can only
find my hard scent
sticking to my intentions.
Please don’t hold
my heart against me.
Maggie Swofford works by day at a publishing company in Peabody, MA. By night, she’s a fierce D&D player who loves Impressionist art and sci-fi movies.
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"Cabot Street" by Michaela Savell