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Nine Years Old

Face reddened by emotion,
her eyes scoured the gym for her mom.
As obvious as the pipe cleaner hanging from her ear, she
was trying to keep it together.

Just as she spied her sanctuary,
her waterlogged eyes met mine
and carried the weight of a crushed spirit,
perhaps not yet broken, but pierced.

Mending a soul now became her mother’s work
deepened by the words of the scratched record
repeating over and over to be heard by
her daughter’s ears alone.

What biting, damning secrets did those silent
knives carve into her?
Did he even care?
Would his parents?

Youth shapes and shifts the course….and the
best taught lessons are privy to the
unobserved voice of a stranger.
Does its owner recognize another’s suffering?

Empathy is lost to anger when words
no longer are recognized as power.
Or is this Survival of the Fittest where
the winners learn the lesson of becoming Hard?

Intentional or not, a day will be where the one
in tears causes another’s.
Youth is a playground to entice away from
the known, the safe, the kind.

Today’s tears to be used, in time, as medicine or venom,
for growth, creation or drowning.
To be swallowed in self loathing or
to be welding to a new, protective tool.

The impossible task of ensuring a masterpiece
still be created, with brushes missing
bristles and half used dry paint,
now is handed to the mother.

But broken walls and ripped canvases can
hold Beauty.
Fallen trees can be used to build houses
or to light the darkness.

At nine years old, an unfolding subconsciously begins.
Will it lead to a shell, an exterior so
tough that in time a human connection
seems trivial and a luxury of those untouched?

Or the opposite…to forgiveness and the recognition
to Love, to Live, encompasses and understands
pain… and scars are bi-products
in sorting out Experience.

The choice begins and we are all responsible
Do we wrap our arms around the invisible wound,
allowing it to seep out until time to heal…
or stare at it and ignore the very essence of being human.

Humanity is not found in the unfeeling, the numb.
Alcohol can serve that purpose.
Strength is found in the engulfing,
uncomfortable and welcomed connection.

At nine years old, her eyes met mine.
With pursed lips and sad eyes,
I gave her the only gift I could, an understanding smile.
We are the Survivors of Youth.
and it’s Ours to teach her how to be.

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