Becoming a Woman
The first time: my underwear,
stained and crumpled, squashed
into our bathroom cupboard and I am paged
to the nurses’ office at school where the nurse
asks in hushed tone if something has happened—
we have watched the videos and been shown
the diagrams, and my mother has called the school,
having found my underwear, asked: voice
full of pride and worry…so I nod as though
I know something the other girls don’t,
that the boys snicker at: still small; squeaking—
and I am so tall and so soft : already in a bra,
sprouting hair; already not a child but still
wanting to be a child, and something so tender
is lost and bleeding in me. Now, there is a secret
I am keeping but I can’t tell what it is—
something to be careful of; something
to be concealed and I am given plastic razors
and perfumes and pads and I am afraid, afraid, afraid
like a child in the dark, not knowing of what.
First there is a lush, quiet sky: sea
filled with anticipation. Then something
is released, and time grows fingers.
The moon cycles, triggering our cycles
and the cycles of fish, feeding; turtles
emerging to shore
egg-laden; heavy as moonlight.
Life is mostly waiting: on possibilities,
on hope. There are chances—
shadows that never become.
But this is not hope; this is the one,
definite thing, the only thing
that reaches and it is inside of me—
sea hovering around the start
of unseen stirrings.
I saw what was your world
spin away from you in moments.
It was replaced by a body.
The body was yours but also not yours.
It had its own limbs, its own cries
and also your limbs and cries.
I saw how the sea opened its mysteries—
slipped gleam of grey curve.
I saw your dreams emerge.
When you woke up, you were crying
and laughing. Death had tumbled you;
finally you knew pain.
You clasped your new life in your arms,
seeing love for the first time. You murmured:
It was you. It’s you.
The wild landscape of love,
moon-soaked and ragged plain.
All the edges too clear; animals
ruthless. The barren moon rules,
bald in its light, which illuminates
writhing Earth: swill of fertility,
pain and want. A squall, a mass
of tails: spinning and spinning. Now,
the heart fixes like a hook to a cry.
It is plaintive and true. Nothing
was ever so clear. Like stars
on a winter night, piercing
the uncovered universe black
and white. This is life.
This is how time keeps itself.
The Tree of Time
(based on Maria Rizzo’s painting of the same title)
Time grows in branches,
one moment very like the other:
Second son, I have been here before.
This is a dark time; your cries are waves
colliding with my dreams. Reality
is twisting into something new,
and my life is changing color….
The view of the night sky boxed,
like a window. But your eyes
are stars, constant—
shining, bright yellow,
at corners of my nights
as I wake to feed you:
obsessed with numbers—
the ounces you drink, weight.
My face is clouded moonlight:
less than slivering light. Little son,
shadows are waves on water.
This is a magical time.
We will put down new roots,
but not now. Not here. Now the sea
races like a heart, your hand
presses my face, in sleep.
Now nights are like days,
and every day is a ladder rung
reaching to a brand-new life.
The eyes: hooded sky
the rest of the face hangs from—
little crescent moon.
Now you cast them to me:
ask your questions, make pleas,
defy with your white scowl.
Your lips are mine, drooping
roses; the pink shape of wonder
and the slope of your cheeks, mine,
but whitewashed of flaws; white
and pink, translucent as light
and thin-skinned as an egg.
Blue trails beneath the surface,
lines of a map, where eyelashes
linger: catching, giving depth.
Every day you grow arms and legs
and more looks, like light—
from me but not mine.
Like my mother in an old video—
I see me as I see you in me. She sees herself;
in the mirror, sees her mother.
The fourteen-year-old me in the video:
wiggling, excited for something I didn’t know
yet: bursting from my pink swimsuit—
My mother knew. Lips stitched into a line:
eyes on the horizon, as mine are now.
The past comes in like the tide—
and our faces swallow themselves.
We shrug in and out of them
like a borrowed sweater;
like the two imprints, potter’s
thumb slips just under your eyes:
up go the pupils,
up knit the eyebrows—
always up and away.
This is the way love travels.
© Lindsey Bellosa