Eight Years Old
I think of her now, the way she moves,
slight on tip toes, carefully balanced,
her hair like liquid down her shoulders.
The way she leaps onto the couch,
the way she still climbs into my arms
curls up, the way her hair smells
the way family is a person, yes
but, also a place
I think of the way she owns her body
with reckless abandon.
The way she is so present and alive and real.
How she dances and spins
tight as a coil and then unleashes
all gangly and springing abandon.
This smart amazing girl.
As I hug her goodbye
she whispers secrets in my ear
her breath a tickle.
She writes me stories.
She gives me things she has made.
She tells me ideas she has.
She plans and schemes and dreams
each day unfurling before her
as if they were endless.
Every time I say goodbye
I know that next time I see her
she will have grown,
her limbs strong and long
her laugh loud and unstoppable.
This is what happens.
It is supposed to be good.
Girls grow up. It is what they do.
But I also know as she grows, time shrinks,
I worry about the years she has left.
Maybe five, tops.
Will it end at age thirteen or before then?
I worry about the day,
the first time a boy
or a man remarks on her body.
The first time a stranger touches her.
I remember middle school
boys snapping my bra as we passed in the hall
that knowledge that I was a thing being seen
She will have it too, as we have all had it.
That moment when she’ll see herself
as they see her,
as a commodity,
As something that can be owned.
The moment those perfect limbs
will start to feel like they do not belong to her anymore.
That moment when she will realize that beautiful body
will be dissected and judged and taken by others.
I want to dig my fingers into the ground
and stop the world from turning.
I want to scream back time
I want to keep her here
where she is young and full of hope.
I want to tear the stars from the sky
I want her body to only be hers
I want to lock her away somewhere she will always be safe.
Where no one can ever make her feel small or less or diminished.
I want to keep her somewhere she’ll always be this vivid.
I hug her hard
and she wiggles away,
dancing on those light toes.
and when I leave I do the only thing I can do.
I beg the universe for more days.
As many as it can spare.