She is always “sixteen years old…
three weeks of something.”
She spent summer afternoons in her basement,
which was empty except for an unused sewing machine,
two couches and a library of second-hand novels.
Boys reached up her shirt and she loaned books to them:
books that smelled like small towns,
the corners of the pages curled from nicotine.
She polished herself with eyeliner,
engraved stars into her thigh,
spat chewing gum before giving out first kisses.
She absorbed passivity, infected her skin purple
when she tried to pierce her nose.
She snuck gin under gymnasium floorboards,
insisted she could not draw or dance or love.
She always made her way back to the basement,
where sewing needles were bookmarks and
she watched her skin bubble
under the scrutiny of lighter fluid.