When I Was

for Kelton

when I was a
I reached across
the space between us
spanning the distance
            with ease

when I was a
I burrowed through you
finding in the depths
cool secluded places
            of rest

when I was a
I stood above you
arms reaching out
in a pose more fit for yoga
            wide and open

when I was a
I chose to be a rose
for you liked its smell
the softness of its petals
            clean and pink

when I was a
            traffic light
people stopped to stare
waiting for my next move
their actions by mine governed
            in times of change

when I was a
I burned all too briefly
my own fate, finally,
depending on your fancy
            the staying of your breath

Shelly Bryant divides her year between Shanghai and Singapore, working as a teacher, writer, researcher, and translator. She is the author of three volumes of poetry, Cyborg Chimera, Under the Ash, and Voices of the Elders, a pair of travel guides, and a translation of Sheng Keyi’s novel 《北妹》 (Northern Girls) for Penguin Books.

Shelly’s poetry has appeared in journals, magazines, and websites around the world, as well as in several art exhibitions, including dark ’til dawn, Things That Disappear, and Studio White • Exhibition 2011. You can visit her website at http://shellybryant.com.

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