Growing Pains

What’s in my nature? At this point, I am not really sure anymore. Titles I once adorned as inherently mine have transformed into possibilities, no longer innate. Identity has become fluid rather than fixed, a strong-current river constantly forming fresh gorges. And I let it. And I ask questions. Poetry is a place where those wonderings find an articulation, to figure out what is mine, what is someone else’s, what is collective, and what is transcendent. Most things, I do not know and cannot explain. But I know it is in my nature, as it is in yours, to be loving and to seek love, even when we pretend not to. I know that we are all pursuing communion; with each other, with ourselves, with something higher. Poetry speaks to all three, for me.

I. ‘Grown up’

I always think of growing up as a shedding of skin so
when I look into the future I am unrecognisable,
so much has been discarded.
I always think of growing up as being a different person than
who I was before and who I am now,
but when I peer into old photo frames,
the reflective glass coating acts as an added mirror,
my old (young) face bewildered and staring at me, and me at her.
I always think of growing up as a far-off place, slightly obscured,
a destination I maybe have no intention of reaching,

a place where I will have doubled in size
because I’ll no longer shrink myself,
where I’ll stop fragmenting myself for boys
who always stop to read bench plaques
but can’t notice when I’m feeling insecure,
a place where I don’t have my sunny-day cigs or
hour-long-eyes-glazed-over TikTok scrolls or
third tequila shot (because Thursday is the new Friday
and the man next to me at the bar has already paid for it,
so why not?),

a place where I’ll stop falling in love
with everyone I fall into bed with
and instead romanticise myself,
where the first thing I glance to when
I look in the mirror won’t be my body but instead my face,
eyes all lit up with knowing and trust.

Maybe growing up is more reachable than I thought,
sometimes I momentarily taste it
when I trust what I feel more than what I know.
It dancing fleetingly across my tongue
like the lime and salt and Thursday-night-tequila-shot,
forcing me to arrive back sharply into my senses,
needing nothing but what I have in this moment.

II. Snail trail

I always thought the hairs just below my belly-button were cute, then the wax lady said, snail trail too? I said no in that moment, but since then, in moments of weakness I pluck them, in case an exploring lover says snail trail? too. I guess shame took my hand and guided me to the tweezers. Shame has a tendency to force my hand. Shame casts a shadow over my womanhood, only allowing a half-bloom, a stunted unfurling. Shame is performance is gender and I just want to be a woman without having to prove it and I want to be desired without having to suck in and I want my body to have a moments rest from all the requirements, spoken or unspoken, just to be free from the pressure, visible or invisible. I want my femininity to exist without being a constant opponent of masculinity, head-butting, always having to prove each other wrong. I want to bloom in full without having to hack myself down, soft kisses on my snail trail rather than hard gazes.

III. Our Time Entangled

Your thumb is moving back and forth (and back and forth)
on the back of my hand like a metronome,
providing a rhythm for my heart to match,

which it does,
but occasionally it skips a beat because
you are looking at me like I am something precious
and I am trying not to quickly retreat but instead to stay,
holding the weight of your affection in my palm
like something precious.

Together, we submerge ourselves in
the puddle of yellow light that leaks in through the window,
we delight in our new conditions and
grow up the wall like ivy, intentionally entangled,

with our limbs braided and our skin sun-thirsty
I think about how I have never felt so safe laid bare against another.

I can see that you have transformed my quietness into
a Mystery Worth Unpicking and
my impenetrability into a Minor Inconsequence for you to
peel back slowly, like a ready-to-come-off-Band-Aid,

and you are right,
I feel the wound may have healed and
your patience is love and
I have never felt more safe.

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