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Poem-A-Week

Twelve
Anna Scotti

So, there you are, cross-legged, patient fingers

working tangles from the silky plume of the dog's tail, 

mouth set in a stern love line exactly

like my grandmother’s. You’ve already learned that love 

is mostly duty: gathering worms after every rainfall, laying 

countless broken birds to rest in tissued boxes, 

grim as any village preacher. You've scabbed

knees, bitten nails—yet the new teacher’s

eyes can't quite meet mine. Don’t let all that beauty 

confuse you: there will be a boy who does not

love you, then a man. And someday, a child, 

willful as a windborne spirit, slamming doors 

and windows, raging like a storm at sea—raging, 

but so far from you!—then curled in a sullen circle 

of music, friends, secrets that exclude you.  

And I'll be a photograph on the dresser, 

a folded note beneath a stack of silken scarves—

maybe this note. So, listen, now, your mother is speaking:  

Don’t flinch in the face of all that angry beauty; breathe.

Know what it is to have love enough to squander.

 

previously published in Scotti's Bewildered By All This Broken Sky (Comstock Review)

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Anna Scotti is a poet, writer, and public speaker whose work can be found in The New Yorker, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and a variety of literary journals. Her recent awards include The Paterson Prize for Books for Young People (2020) and The Lightscatter Prize for Poetry (2020).  Read more at www.annakscotti.com.

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