At 11 I understood the world

felt all its ripples, lies and blooms of truth

When I turned 12 the truth was laid out for me

my childishness brandished like a dropped sock.


In middle school I learned to be proper

to summon my smile or stuff it away–

don’t be a slut a prude a freak a bore a nerd an airhead

and definitely don’t try too hard.


In 10th grade I had an epiphany

I made friends with my typing instructor and dyed my hair blue.

It took two days for my mother to ground me, a week for my friends to stage an intervention,

and two weeks for my new skin to crumble like dead leaves.


At 20 I found the secret to life:

to never judge, to accept everyone as they are.

I walked through the world with a blissful smile

and daggers beneath.


At 25 I discovered the key to happiness:

to look out for myself and nobody else.

I parted the sea around me

and strode forth, looking only ahead.


My parents died when I was 30

gone within two months of each other. I was unmoored

by their passing. Once again I traveled unknown country.


Perhaps it was that loss which cracked

my shell of certainty. Or maybe it was simply the colors around me,

the warmth of an evening breeze. In 18 years,

what more had I learned of these things?


At 11 I understood the world

knew all its corners, crannies and hidden things. At least, that’s what I tell myself

at 31.

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