Burning All Around

When I was in eighth grade
my mother found a box of cigarettes in my closet
and once the panic slid back down my throat,
she let me convince her they weren't mine.
Years later, trying to resist the urge
to let the smoke curl its warm hands down my spine,
I resented how easily she welcomed blindness
instead of letting her tears run with mine
and rubbing my back when, here I was, her daughter,
blackening my lungs in an attempt to fill cracks
that had only just begun to open.

But today
my child came home from middle school
with dark scratches on her wrist
and blood staining the tips of her sleeves,
and when I asked what happened she laughed and said
the sides of binders are sharp and “mom, really, I'm okay,”
and it felt like all of New York City
was collapsing inside my chest,
and now I realize it is easier to pretend
we haven't raised our children to feel just as broken
as we have always felt
than it is to look into their fractured eyes,

so I smile and send her upstairs to do homework
while skyscrapers burn to the ground
and my hands shake as I chop vegetables for dinner.

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