Telling the Child

by Austin Hopkins, MS1

Face radiant

No wrinkles brought on by unprotected summer tans

Eyes auroral

Not yet a witness to what happens between the trees at night

Hands delicate

Having never known how to load a syringe or throw the condom aside

Skin soft

No scars or sores or burns or ink—

 

I see myself in you

Part of me is part of you

I sit you down, I have to talk to you about something sweetie

I’ve dreaded this day since the double pink line, the seafarer’s guiding constellation

Choices that I once made turned into dictations sent down from Moirai

To tell you that your body has been damned to self-destruction

By something that I did, my mistake,

It lives on in you, too

There are no combinations of magic words to set it right

Your monsters live in your closet (HIV means nothing to you)

So a simplistic, oddly romanticized version must do

 

Sweetie, your body has problems fending off the bad guys

The stuff that makes you sick, the stuff your body is supposed to fight off

It’s nothing bad about you, your mommy gave it to you when you lived inside me

We’ll go see the special doctor to get you medicines to make it okay

I promise, there’s nothing wrong with you. I love you, too.

 

Maybe you’ll hate me one day, but maybe I won’t bear witness

To the finale of the tragedy in which I briefly starred

When I breathe, I don’t always feel its grip within me

But when I breathed years ago, I felt you breathe and squirm within me

If I don’t touch you, if I don’t hold your hand walking into school, if I don’t kiss you goodnight—

Then I can almost pretend that nothing’s wrong

But we were demonized— presented as the witches to be burned

And once the little truth touches the big world, you will burn, burn, burn

Because somehow what is in our blood makes us less pure.