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Being young is taking
any hand that opens,
running forward
when the light says, “Don’t walk.”

Growing old is knowing
the way a hand opens
reveals an inclination to take
if given the chance,

that a raised eyebrow
precedes a raised fist.

I sat at a table in the dark for hours
willing myself to ask for a glass of water,
but the waves closed over me,
and the fish turned their heads.

They say
silence is golden,
family/God is love.

But words
cut corners,
shake the walls.
They toppled the roof
of my childhood.

I hid in closets,
under beds,
inside playground equipment,
but the sky loomed overhead,
heavy on my small body.

For a while the sky turned green,
cats flew on angel wings,
and insects played chess on the porch.

I became used
to the strangeness
of the familiar.

My true form
came back as déjà vu.
I walked into the real
as others walk into dreams—
through a veil,
things fuzzy
then exactly what I expected.

I learned truth again
as one learns a foreign language.
Correct conjugation
of human actions: control, controlled, controlling.
List of terms: friend, enemy, frenemy.
Fluency of use: sometimes “how are you” means “I hate what you make me.”

We form packs by crippling each other
and call this devotion.
We sit the child at the table
and make her hate her thirst.

This we call education.

I was pliant, so I was complicit.

I was the stranger’s voice in my head

whispering

I must not speak
for fear of echo


Janice Worthen lives in the Bay Area. By day, she is the shipping coordinator
for Small Press Distribution. By night, she writes poetry and freelance news
stories, blogs, and snores. Her poems have appeared in The Rectangle,
Switchback, and Your Impossible Voice.

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