My Babies

by Cassie

My babies, all my babies
The ones I’ve birthed from
the vast expanse of my body
and the ones who have seeded
themselves in my heart
and grown there like
the strong stalks of corn
in the middle of summer:

don’t listen to them, their
mad braying and frantic barks,
their carnival shouting over
the hectic music of you
growing up.
They’ll take all your tickets
and try to guess your worth
based on your weight,

but your soul doesn’t register
in pounds and ounces
so you’re a loser the minute
you put the paper in their hands
but they’re gonna take it anyway
because there’s always money
to be made off the humpbacked
misery of the unloved self.

So just leave them standing there
with a palm full of air and a
mouth full of nothing, let them
watch the way your retreating back
is as straight and bold as a wall
built of brick-strong truths and
thick love like half dry cement,
covered in centuries of clouds.

Leave them standing there and
go ride a roller-coaster or get
on the ferris wheel and sit at the top
and survey the whole world on
terms that live on only your tongue,
touch your fingertips to the sky and
shout to the crowd below how much
of a somebody you actually are,

not because your face is pleasant,
even though it is lovely to look at,
not because your body is pleasing
under the hands of a lover,
even though it will be, over and over,
not because your hair is long
not because your skin is clear
and your pores are invisible,

but because you exist, here,
today, and all the days since your
very first, because you gulp down
all this sweet air around you,
and that body-shaped sea
of stardust and atoms is moving
through time, through space,
an astronaut spirit, exploring,

and you are an adventure,
your body a wilderness, waiting
for you to wander through and
name all the native plants and
swim in waters that have never
touched skin; you are unmapped
territory, and they will plunder
you for profit, so pirate your own ship

and make them walk the plank,
throw them to the sharks and
hungry sirens, and set your sails
for home. Home, not the place,
not the four walls and fixed address,
but the heart that beats behind
the blade-shaped bone of sternum,
the curved timbers of your ribcage.