birth, vol. II

in overlong fingers you cup the clouding glass dish where
we arranged robin’s eggs and whistling grasses when i was littler
than i am now, today’s ruby-bright creation of yours straining
and heaving to birth something of my own, pressing
my tongue against off-center teeth trying
to speak my name which is not the one you gave me.
child. i flail in cool-toned emptiness
as you pinch my legs in to my chest and hold them there
with just the base of your thumb and your mouth telling me
to be regular and eat tilapia alone at the kitchen counter
like you do. it’s not enough that i can’t breathe like this
so you tip over the dish and close me beneath its rattling
shell. mother. pushing untold prints of this, my own body
against the glass as you loom, just dusty eyes and
brown eyeliner as you throw my pearl earrings through the dryer vent.
it’s nothing. i haven’t cried for you since i was seven
and i won’t be starting now, not with you there spilling
your unplanted daffodil bulbs from your pockets begging
me to be a baby bird you can peel from its shell and kiss
until you suck down its eyes. i’m not your baby anymore,
i am a new and unseen thing gulping the blue shine of
hosed grass and quarter gumballs beneath someone else’s tongue
hungry because you’ve never fed me enough. mother. in the end
i never was yours to keep, to wear preserved in amber around
your freckling neck, i have not for one moment been yours
but here i am beneath your glass dish watching my breath condense
above me. and maybe i’m glad to remember i am tangible
outside of you but you’re so scared of me, unbreakable,
that you close your hands over the glass and
block out the dining room incandescents so i am
swimming in the dark, spooling verses from my lips
and i am expanding so fast i punch through the glass
to rest real and boundless on the china cabinet. looking you
right in the eyes as i stand up, dropping your stale love on the floor.
and i am so vivid you cannot even watch me leave.

Allison Stein is a seventeen-year-old student living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Ralph Munn Creative Writing Anthology, Doghouse Press, and Parallax Literary Magazine, among others. Her poetry has also received national recognition from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. When she is not writing, she enjoys making collage art and spending time in parks.

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