by Valerie Guardiola
I knew love at ten years old,
holding berries, crushed
and bleeding red in my right hand,
unaware of life after burying my godfather.
I knew love when I held her child
and thought of what life looks like
outside of my own arms.
When there is no way I can imagine
some half hearted attempt to crown a
new girl king, and I bend at the elbows
and hope it will help pass the time.
I knew love when she spoke to me in hymns,
and danced with me, half naked near blazing fires.
When the sky opened and showed me the weight
the women who roar
and the women who mumble.
I knew love when I came back to my city,
wrapped it in my grandmother’s afghan,
to find it had stained my fingers
with the blood of years before
and questioned whether it ever was mine.
I knew love through my boomerang thighs,
even after boys cursed me for them.
When I stopped feeling so ancient,
despite silver blood running through to my heart.
I knew love when I stopped wearing lipstick
because he said he wouldn’t kiss me,
but the truth was I was learning to hate every
story that I pushed through my paint.
When I was a hostess to a town that kept
breaking my heart, and I would remind myself
that the best parts of before
and after are the ones in between.
I knew love from hanging goldfish
from silver wire when I was six.
When I was a sucker for a boy with
wild eyes and raw ears,
saving graces for after dinner
in case your brother walked in.
I knew love when my mother was a genius
and when my father was a spy, because
you live long enough in a tourist town,
people start coming to you like they’re visiting.