your mother is forgiving.
on nights like these when the cicadas are singing and you are sleeping under a quilted sky, she lingers in the doorway and doles out slices of forgiveness
for the ceramic cups you cracked and the carpets you dirtied and the saltwater stories you broke in two. tonight she perches on the edge of your mattress and prays.
—do you know what i have given you? i raised you on rainy balconies & half-scorched dumplings & sunday trips to the supermarket.
i gave you a place to come home to.
(last week you came home past curfew with sneakers laced with dirt. you beat your open palm against the padlocked doors and begged to be let in. winter seeped into your threadbare clothing and your fingers were frostbitten by morning.)
—do you know how i brought you into this world? do you know how i molded you out of alabaster and painted on your colors; sleepless nights swirling shades around my palette until i found the right one.
if i choose to add new colors to my masterpiece, will you tell me i cannot?
(yesterday she painted colors on your skin as compensation for the blackberry juice spilled on the carpet. your wrist bruised like overripe fruit and you hid the ring of blooming purple from the prying eyes of strangers.)
—is it wrong that i ask you to be beautiful? you are not those girls in the magazines who are sun-kissed and spinning, the ones they call lucky and whisper about in the streets. am i not allowed to be dissatisfied with my own creation?
i see so much of myself in you.
(you stood at the mirror and scratched at your shriveled ankles, bones protruding from the flesh. in delirium, you swallowed spoonfuls of moonlight past your windowsill to soften the hunger. you wished to be pretty.)
tonight, she answers her own questions in strands of forgiveness.
she has made it a habit to sieve quicksand words through her fingertips until only the pretty ones are left. she gives these words to you when the moon is halved and bleeding gaping syllables wide enough to fit a noose around your neck.
outside your doorway she makes herself into a silhouette and spits
affirmations (i forgive you)
& kerosene into the flames.
your mother is forgiving.
Katie Tian is a fourteen year old from Jericho, NY. She enjoys writing in multiple genres of creative fiction, and she has been nationally recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is inspired by the world around her and takes ideas from her own life to include in her writing.
Isabelle Lu is a 16-year-old creative from Long Island, New York. She is a winner of the New York Times Student Editorial Contest and the Scribe Writing Contest in poetry. She likes collecting strange earrings, which when worn may hinder activities like playing the cello and putting on sweaters. In her daily life, she can be found doodling and enthusing about books to unsuspecting innocents. Her art career began with magical girls.