NaPoWriMo Poem #5: Seventeen

The bus seems like a perfect exit
to a girl, seventeen, with a dammed-up chest.

Years ago, the concrete poured,
the walls maneuvered into place while the contractors
cast over her face with stone: straighten up. You’ve got
nothing to cry about.
her glass shatter heart had lain in magnificent crystalline pieces
just behind the giant, cold, gray barrier. Soundproof. No one outside
had heard the shivering while the workmen
took their spare tools to the lucent structure; no one outside
even knew the thing had been made out of glass
to begin with.

Each year, the river had risen, inch by inch,
until the deluge threatened
to spill over the top or make the mammoth walls
buckle. They had slowly forgotten what
they had been placed there for,
the pachyderms with brains wiped clean yet
watching the destruction happen, backs turned
while the glass ruin and dust behind them
tried to reassemble itself every few days. At the
bottom of the river, still sparkling,
faces of the remnants could have been mistaken for diamonds
dumped from a passing galleon’s bowels just before it
plunged itself to the bottom in shipwreck suicide.
Every once and again, the girl had fumbled,
reaching a tentative hand to the river bottom to
find these shards and reassemble them herself: but each year,
the bottom became harder and harder to reach.

Meanwhile, belts and curses had wrapped
their slithering heads around her legs, the woman wielding them
a Medusa, branding the girl’s skin with missives: each epistle
a thief, scuba-diver scuttling to the bottom to steal
sunken treasure. Retard. Dork. Slut. The tears had begun to stop
when she was thirteen. The river rose higher. Sometimes,
she would dive herself, either to cover the treasure with her bruised body
or drown: but meantime, Medusa had dumped her oil curses
into the water. Each time, the girl coming up for air
and shuddering in disgust at the dead, slick waste that
anointed her skin once she broke surface.

Today, the sky is a clear, unveiled face
with a sun’s eye. She checks the surface
of the river, and it speaks in
break apart, slosh together, and break apart again: no chance
to mirror the azure or the solar welcomes above her. She
tries again to plunge a free hand to the river’s bottom and
brush her fingertips against the shards and ground glass dust
lying in collection below. Before, when she used to do this,
she would pull up fingers weeping blood and embedded with
little symphonies of glass; from these,
she would write her poems.

But today, she pulls up nothing: her fingers
cannot touch bottom anymore. And her friend,
with extended arm and invitation to come home with her,
waits on the steps of the bus, which is a perfect exit
to a girl, seventeen, with a dammed-up chest.

Written 4/6/11
©2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

This poem is a followup to Fifteen, Paint By Numbers”, and
“Sixteen”. I am half-tempted to write a poem for each year of my life up until age eighteen: let’s see what happens with that. I hope you enjoyed the poem.


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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