Girlhood by Lucy Rattner

by Lucy Rattner

girlhood was a dream, a dream that moved fast through my head and slipped away in the morning.
it was tiny hands holding each other, hopscotch socials, dolls in the sand.
moonlight manicures and late-night euphoria.
saving graces passed under bathroom stalls, lying on stomachs on pink frilly beds, telephone wire strung in hands—
did you see did you hear did you know?
it was magazine horoscopes, jump rope love, razor scooter bruises.

the girl i was lives inside me, coiled like wire in my heart.
she has peach juice dribbling down her chin; i wipe it away with tenderness.

girlhood does not become womanhood—instead, they face each other with pride.
look at me, look at what i’ve made.
one is not without the other.

my state of being—
that of femininity—
is a savior.
telling me to cherish my treasures.
i keep them in a jewelry box with a ballerina dancing on top.
she whispers:
laugh underneath the darkening sky
and smile for the camera!
of course i smile, how could i not?
how could i not
when cats purr,
when sunsets exist,
when fruits ripen.
this is the stuff of girlhood.

laugh underneath the darkening sky—
laugh even though the sky is darkening,
and you are growing,
and the men are staring.
and oh, how they stare.
eyes on autopilot, looking for any hint of flesh, set to seek and destroy.
it is when they first find purchase on you that you realize—
and it’s a realization that kills, hanging heavy in your heart—
they can see my body, but not my soul.

bedrooms are where most the mind takes place.
it is where you first learn to love,
and it is where you survive the harsh winter of your own head, the cruel whisper saying you are not enough and never will be.
it is conditioned in us the second we first feel we are being looked at.

and perhaps girlhood is a transition, from not knowing to knowing too much.
from having never been kissed to having kissed everyone,
from feeling one thing to feeling everything,
from sleeping easy to lying awake at night,
in a canopy bed of wondering and looking back at everything you did wrong.
so much wrong you’ve done.
wrong seeps out of your pores, hanging itself on the hook of your embarrassment.

but there is right, as well.
right is the way your friends love you,
would do anything for you,
will listen to you talk about your bad dates and difficult mother,
your struggling and your sorrow.
they dance with you on the highway pavement covered in rain, wet dress and all.

and girlhood is remembering,
remembering every painful little detail like a hymn you sung years ago.
the way they laugh,
the way they look at you,
the way they hold you.
or held you.
girlhood is thousands of goodbyes wrapped in pretty paper.

goodbyes move slowly and then in a rush.
all of a sudden there is no more music and you must make do with the leaving.
you must say farewell to your little girl body, your little girl toys and your little girl books, the fireflies that sing in the night sky,
your dad being strong enough to carry you,
and your mom being soft enough to hold you.
once you learn to say goodbye, saying hello is addicting.

think of a girl who hasn’t spent her whole life saying hello.
(you can’t.)
think of a girl who hasn’t spent her whole life giving.
(you can’t.)
think of a girl who hasn’t spent her whole life loving.
(you can’t.)
think of a girl who hasn’t spent her whole life saying yes and swallowing no’s.
you can’t, because every girl has spent her life opening her heart and letting it get crushed.

girlhood is a dream while waking,
burrowing itself in your subconscious
and peeking out when you think it’s gone.
it is love,
of life,
it is love.

Hear Lucy Rattner recite the poem on the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast:

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Lucy Rattner is a soon-to-be-20-year-old poet from Orangeburg, New York. Instagram @lucyrattner

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