you never had a chance to be a child, did you? never
swaddled between cotton and iridescence.
or perhaps you were always a child.
i am sorry.
they tore your numb fetus out from your mother’s womb,
doused you with an ointment mixed with the rubble of revolution.
it was thick and suffocating against newborn skin.
and they probed your quivering body and said,
you unfurled your soft limbs and they jabbed your heel with
a quill. ink hardened into cement inside your veins.
your parents encased you in clay and sung victory marches
when you wailed. they stroked your wispy hair, murmured
that you were their homunculus.
you grasped the air, your fingers curling into a fist as they sought
the warm hand that maybe once held you when you cried.
but your blurry brain, folded like a blanket,
sculpted that memory as clumsily as it instructed your feet to
toddle across glass shards and ashes.
sometimes you tripped. gravel scraped your knees, beads of
failure lodged in the cement clumps infiltrating your bloodstream.
you ignored the stinging of open skin as you lunged at your cousins,
your chubby fingers hurling pellets of fire at their scrambling torsos.
at family reunions, you played dress-up with your father’s
suits, and you clasped a wine glass with hands too little
to reach all the way around the stem. all the adults pretended, too.
they asked you about your territories, which were your favorite
playgrounds because they had twisty slides and new friends.
you got spoiled. at some point, you acquired two pets:
an elephant and a donkey. you liked to take turns riding them,
your smooth hands clutching soft fur. spit dribbled out
from between your lips as the rhythmic rocking of hooves
sung you a lullaby. your fingers twitched in your sleep.
your cousins stopped throwing fire and started pelting something
shinier. rattles? yes, rattles. maybe there was candy shivering inside,
trapped, yearning to breathe free from its plastic prison.
alone on a barren battlefield, sprawled on a cushion of bodies,
you shook one of the rattles, pretending the ack-ack-ack was rain on your nursery window.
the other day, someone scooped you up, and you clung to him.
no one had ever held you without bathing you in flames
or drowning you in oil. you teethed on strong hands, real this time,
and they tucked you inside the breast of a suit — his suit, not yours.
and you didn’t care what the man inside the suit said or did because you thought you were safe and warm at last.