it took me a long time to realize life was fragile.
you know, you’re fourteen, you watch death on the news,
and you offer up prescribed empathy, but then you go running
and your ponytail bobs in the air, and your stomach is all knotted up
over the act of living. you don’t think about the thick, flowing blood
in your veins, keeping you afloat.
then you’re seventeen, such an elegant age,
but nothing settles right, and you stop sleeping in your own bed,
stop assuming you will shift into place
when you leave your hometown. it’s those nights,
meeting your own bloodshot eyes in the mirror,
that you decide what kind of change must be made.
no more fretting over plastic happiness, stacked up on your dresser,
the futility of a store-bought smile. you want to burn instead.
how did you claw your way here from teardrops staining
the shower floor? when did you stop counting your steps
on the way to school? there are so many earthly pleasures to collect now.
you spend your frail days studying droplets on the mirror,
reflecting back eager green eyes. you overthink the feeling
of the steering wheel at night, of dewy grass at dusk,
of the sky tilting the sun’s rays in endless new directions.
it’s so delicate! so easily wasted! get out of your head,
get out of your bones! you measure the beauty of different times of day,
choose five pm to step outside because the colors scream softly
every night before they die. you dip your head back,
admire the cloudy haze, spin around in the middle of the road.
you decide you’ll miss yourself when you get older,
so you pick a different type of flower every day,
and imagine yourself as a thief who can’t resist falling hard
for small pieces of artwork. and then, you walk home, flower in your fingers,
your trophy for another day of breathing it in
with all your might.
Zoe Cunniffe is a poet and singer-songwriter from Washington, DC. She has previously been published in literary journals such as Meniscus and The Showbear Family Circus.