Fine was what her mother was, eight months before the end,
and fine was what her father said when friends
would ask him how he was
or how his girls were taking it.
And he would smile and say that word–
a wall, a lie–dismissing all intruding eyes.
“We’re just fine, thanks. Staying strong.”
Nothing to see here. Move along.
And so she grew and said it too when blood or pain
came seeping through her toughened, calloused layers of skin,
When life was rough and love unkind,
her body sick, or her mind
was black and empty. Then that word—
a shield, a wish–came to her lips. She donned her mask.
“Fine. I’m fine.” Avert your eyes.
My weakness is worse than my lies.
Editor’s Note: The repetition of the title word throughout this poem emphasizes the contradiction of its meaning, creating a sharp, emotional narrative.