with a little brown baby with
eyes like lenses and film
positioned behind optic nerve cables
in constant transmission: the birthday cake,
the paper brown bag turned into a crinkling toy,
and the yellow walker become a picture of
Birthday Number One. Number Two
is made of a white lace and red velvet dress
and frizzy brown-black hair like a cloud crown
surrounding a little head with a little grin
and the same pair of camera eyes.

Let’s fast forward a bit: in the picture for
Number Five there is a giant doll, taller than the girl,
with light brown hair in ocean waves falling down from its scalp,
the same light brown hair that the girl will cut
six months later while trying to play barber. Number Twelve
shows the same girl, cloaked in a cubby body and crowned
with an even larger corona of frizz. She has just begun
her phase of wearing nothing but pink. And today,
two small gold studs have been inserted into her earlobes
as a rite of passage.

The film has faded on some of the birthdays
with fainter colors, and on some of the others
there is blood or mud still running from the corners
of their Polaroids in my attic. I’ll spare myself
dirty finger prints and now show Number Twenty-Four:
a booth for two imbued with the indigo hues
of a now-dead restaurant. Giant tiki gods
stand guard nearby while a menagerie of food
is set afire for her amusement. The man with her
dines on his plate of Diamondhead Curry and
watches the spectacle. Three months later,
he will kindle another blaze
by offering her a ring in a velvet box
in between dinner and desert.

There are even more Polaroids. Some are
of much less interest, and some would do nothing
but make a person cry. But here is Number Thirty-Four,
which was taken after a Broadway-worthy spectacle
with a chorus of cutlery and food mounted atop
a Hibatchi grill. Here are the same man and the same
girl, now a woman, still with a crown of frizzy hair,
now knowing why most of the Polaroids pile up
in her attic and why she stuffed them with Greek mythology
and the Harlem Renaissance instead of the art of
hair and makeup.

Picture Number Thirty-Six
is about to be taken. She has figured out that
black bold print eyes and a closet of matching colors
is her uniform, no different than another woman
choosing jeans and hand-embroidered Western shirts
for her uniform, no different than the print shop employee
who chooses a red Starfleet shirt and Delta shield badge
for her uniform. She has endured guilt of the grandest kind
for being a human being instead of a model of perfection
while he has ducked behind trees and cars trying
to avoid hurricane winds. She has abandoned
the sixteen year old in her bosom out of fear and loathing,
only to embrace her again to try to find
the beginnings of love. There has been
so much history written opposite the pictures and
pressed between the pages, but I will ask you
one question now: where do you and I

Written 8/5/2012
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All rights reserved.

This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #117, “What Words Mean”. I don’t know how well I followed the prompt, but my upcoming birthday spurred me to think, and then write this poem. I’m glad to back and writing again and will try my best to read everyone else’s poems this week. 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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3 Responses to Begin

  1. The story you told really drew me in. I couldn’t wait to see what the next Polaroid held.

  2. 1sojournal says:

    Good to see you again, Nicole. Sometimes we just need to go away for a bit. Really like your poem, was drawn in by your vivid imagery and forgot all about the prompt thingie. Have been working on a photo project for a family reunion, so felt right at home and understood this particular journey. Your piece is well written and easily related to. Thanks,


  3. Irene says:

    I enjoyed how you took us through the birthday Polaroids, and how true that is, to see growth through those snapshots. Like this:

    why she stuffed them with Greek mythology
    and the Harlem Renaissance instead of the art of
    hair and makeup.

    There will always be girls who defy norms, and the path will be difficult but will lead to redemption. I think as we grow older, we come more at ease with the destiny that has shaped us. And we always have to begin again.

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