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"Atlas"

Updated: Dec 31, 2020


Art by Sofia Miller

I built castles for love and furnished them into prisons,

Forging tense responsibility out of tender notions,

And to seal the leaking cracks on the ceilings,

I wrapped my arms from wing to wing.

Over the arches stretching from side to sigh,

The towers of brick expectations stack too high.

My paper-thin elbows and illusions

Cannot hold

To even be my own scaffold.

When a single heart is heavy in suspension,

How can I build the foundations

And rise to the rafters, becoming the extension

Of the anger and fear and grief of every past generation?


Remember how I whispered across the marble counter.

My father looked at me, he finally registered,

“Haven’t you seen enough?”

When you see me, you’ll know that the sky is no more.

So tell them all what I swore,

Feudal rule had to end, and so does every feud.

Some altars need to be brought to a lower altitude.


I hover under the marble arch, pressed under a pledge,

Pushing

my grip past the edge of the window ledge.

You grab my paper thin wrists and turn me around.

You stand your ground.

You’re the brick link between the marble floors and wall under the window sill. And yet,

Paper beats rock.


When I fall with the sky,

My pulse beats and flutters like the paper butterfly,

Once hanging above the stone arch of my door.

I feel the weight of my safety scissors in my hand once more.

My fingers were smaller then,

But they still remember the motion.

Scissors beat paper.


A word from the weary,

When you believe in drawn out dreams,

Remember reality.

Paper butterflies don’t really know how to fly.

They just curve down and down and down,

Away from the sky.


Little girl, when you see our hard-earned butterfly

Couldn’t hold its own with the sky.

Please understand.

It’s so hard not to break a heart.

It’s a muscle just the same,

but it’s still not strong enough to carry

the choices I’ve made.









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2 Comments


viviensong2011
viviensong2011
Jul 18, 2020

this is gorgeous!! i love the lines "My paper-thin elbows and illusions / Cannot hold / To even be my own scaffold"

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Julie Larick
Julie Larick
Jul 13, 2020

This was beautiful and the symbolism of the paper butterfly is perfect. The rhyming is subtle and effective; it's hard to write rhymes and have them sound natural but in this poem it is done with such skill!

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