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Taylor Strickland


Life is blemished and golden
moonglow, a lichen borne of love,
the fruiting body you did not become.
Or did you? We couldn’t keep you
hidden in the tussocks of panic
forever, but when you kicked,
fifth instar to a shimmering
green, you were still our little secret.
You quickened into life and through
your mother as she began to darken
with the days: hips to belly button
enclosed a faint line, smile mottled,
a mask cracked into mosaic,
and all during the first trimester.
Too early. I said we’re too young.
Never said I was
afraid, but I was. So afraid
I couldn’t hear what your mother was
afraid of, this being her one chance.
I didn’t see, didn’t see
behind surfaces of lichen-grey
overgrowing everything
what you were meant to be: summer’s
day-flying butterfly, our mountain ringlet,
rare in your desire for montane air.
Instead you were turned to script lichen,
forked, curved letters no one would believe,
not even me. When the floor
revealed you were bloodspot lichen
I knew what I had done.
Even now, six years since your mother and I
rinsed our fingers clean, I still liken you
to chrysalis, a black word. Black after green,
after regret. The wound death brings
is the afterlife.

previously featured in Poetry Review, Autumn 2021

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