When your father throws you out
of the house you were born in,
When your playground forest
becomes an empty, endless night,
When the only stranger who takes you in
wants to feast on your flesh,
You learn that your skin is your only home
and you turn in and in and into
the safe haven of yourself.
When you feel the first spark
of an idea so terrible it singes your heart,
When you feel it taking shape
like a shadow blossoming into a person,
When you speak the cunning words
in your sweetest little-girl voice
and wait. When you do not hesitate
despite the softness of her skin,
the brittle nubs of her spine
or her startled “O!” as you shove her in.
When you hold her thin feet and push them
into her screams and shut the oven door
You learn that nothing at all,
Not even your self, can be trusted.
by Lauren K. Alleyne
Afterward, I married well. I made my husband prove himself to me: he built us a house with walls so thick no wind comes through the walls, no sound. And then I had him put in windows to fill our home with light. I had him bring home a deer a day, until they hung from the trees around our house and the wolves circled us at night and howled. Then I cut them down and smoked them: made jerky and dried venison, and leather. Then for a time there was no more killing. Instead, we planted a garden that grew so much our baskets overflowed. I made jam, and preserves and put them beside our meat. things to stock for later. At night I kissed my husband's hands, his chest, his mouth: the miracle of them.
My womb filled. We had a child, and then another. I marveled at how I could fill and empty: become the rise and ebb myself.
I live a peaceful life: a succession of days and seasons that swell and fall away with only the occasional storm. And every night, I whisper to my children: the walls of our house are strong. Sleep well, my darlings, and dream what you will, for you are safe in this world.
by Catherine Chung
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