Little girls in bright white dresses.
Little girls in bright white dresses with stains of orange juice on them,
And little plastic plates painted in parched purple flowers under half-slices of homemade pizza because,
Little stomachs only need halves.
Little boys with paint in their hair.
Little boys with little curls, dyed green from sticky, finger-paint hands.
Little boys who chase little girls and laugh at everything in life because,
Monsters under your bed,
And bigger hands around yours,
And the world as something at your fingertips,
That you have yet to discover how to hold.
Fancy shoes that are not your own,
And sticks of red lipstick that look nice on walls,
And that exasperated look in those ever-tired eyes,
but who cares, because,
You don’t know what exasperated means anyway.
The world shrinking around you,
And you are shooting upward,
And the monsters under your bed grow up too,
And with some of them,
You make friends.
And suddenly, you can see clearly,
Or perhaps you were seeing clearly before,
But either way, now you know,
That we don’t last forever,
But sometimes our not-forevers,
Are still shorter than we were promised.
And suddenly, you have learned through mistakes,
That no doesn’t really mean no,
And yes doesn’t mean what it promises either,
And people don’t always laugh because it’s funny,
They laugh because you are laughing,
And that despite words like love,
You are all alone.
And you are piled on with tales,
Of times and places and people that you never knew, but somehow, still shape everything that you are,
And everything that you will become.
And you are handed something like wisdom that you are not sure you want to have,
Taught to learn that x is right and y is wrong,
And God forbid you question that,
God forbid you don’t.
And the monsters under your bed are real,
But there is nothing you can do about it,
Because the only tomorrow there is is today,
And the only yesterday there was doesn’t matter anymore,
Because life moves too fast for you to find yourself like they promised,
And you know too well that promises are only words.
You buy a gun for the monsters sleeping in your bed,
And you aim it at their hearts.
And they laugh in your face,
And one day, you might have laughed back,
But that day has long been lost to stories,
That your throat is raw from telling,
And your eyes red from crying,
And your heart cracked,
From aching so much with the things you can’t undo.
The monsters look into your eyes,
And smile a smile painfully familiar.
They reach out a hand,
To comfort you, maybe,
And you pull the trigger.
The glass stings as it rains down.
And all the little lullabies that are no longer worthy.
Artist’s Statement: I wrote this poem when I was going through a point in my life in which I was struggling with what it meant to grow up. I was thinking a lot about the expectations that most people experience some pressure to fulfill as they get older, from what you must know, to what you must challenge, to who you must be. I realized that the monsters I used to be so afraid of never really went away; they just changed their shape from a literal monster under my bed to something else, like body image, or what it means to have success. This is a poem about the journey of leaving childhood, and the struggles that mark that journey every step of the way.
Accompanying Photo: “Pensive on a Rainy Day” by Gali Davar
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