Featured Poem • August 2016
The child asks for a story of my youth. They are greedy for our memories, they want to unlock our wisdom prematurely, the key to the vault handed to them without ceremony. I hesitate, hem and haw as I collect the fossils of the feelings, dig deep to find them buried in me, shadows of the beasts they once were. I tell her the truth, whittled down, clothed in half-truths and soft lies, a riddle, reflected and refracted: in that place of long ago I learned to untie my soul from the flesh as if the only thing that bound them together was an apron string, and I smothered my fear. I learned that you eat hope when nothing else is left. It fills you and warms you, but only for a little while. The hunger comes knocking again. I learned to take the wolf’s teeth and fit them in my mouth, though I feared, sometimes, I would never reclaim my own, that I would be stuck a wolf-girl, hungry, lean and fearsome forever, but I sang with the joy of being the hunter and not the prey, sang through that stranger’s teeth, glorified the moon, and the sharp dark night. And when I left that place, I left that wolf-girl’s skin behind. I filed my teeth down, to nice shapes. And I am the auntie you know today, spinster, story-spinner, survivor.
Lyndsey Silveira is a Portuguese-American writer from central California. She is also a substitute teacher, and regularly amazes and mystifies unsuspecting students with her obscure and previously useless knowledge. This is her first paid poetry publication.
About “I learned,” she wrote, “The poem started out with a version of the lines ‘I learned that you eat hope / when nothing else is left,’ and slowly grew into a poem about sisters who are werewolves or shapechangers. It’s also a story about survival, and the ways in which the experiences and traumas of one generation are relayed to another (or not quite).”
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