February 2, 2017

Growing Up—Beauty and Inevitable Decay {Poem}

I didn’t know that this is what growing up felt like.

I didn’t know that I wished to be this soft, until I cracked.

Like the silvery exoskeleton of a moth, I left what was heavy behind,
and kept flying with only the essential.

I didn’t know that growing up would feel like resurrection.

I didn’t know that growing up meant I would still
break things and get broken.

I didn’t realize that growing up is something I must choose to do every morning before breakfast.

I didn’t know
that when I grew up
my heart would fill with bronze tears
and beg me
to drop it into the deepest part of the ocean.

And now I’m long and wide.
Sinewy as seaweed.
I sewed my lungs to the tide and am always somewhere else,
breathing with the whales.

And now I weave prairie grass into my hair at night,
and fall asleep to the humming of my ancestors.
I wear the sediment of my life for shoes and drive to work in Apollo 11.

I eat the sweat and tears of migrant workers for lunch.
I drink the dreams of future generations out of a leaky faucet.

I thought growing up meant I had to become dry and brittle,
and tough
like concrete,
substantial and stationary.


I didn’t realize that growing up meant that all I had to do was claim my place in all the brokenness.
No more and no less.

And then choose to see myself in it.

Something strange happened
when I accepted the invitation to be a part of this mess.

My imagination grew wild,
and my dreams turned to technicolor and my words became songs.
My hair grew lighter and
rainbows appeared more often.

I didn’t know that growing up would feel like turning seven again,
When my mother let me pick the most beautiful flower in the rose garden.

Only now,
I understand.
My choice entwines our fate,
The beauty and the inevitable decay.

And I still pick that same rose
Every single day.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.




Author: Madelyn Soldner Sullivan

Photo: Max Dean Goldstein

Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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