Sometimes I think I must have spent
a lifetime as a girl searching
alone and in silence for toads
and salamanders, hoisting stones
and peering between blades of grass
in the woods across the street,
where my brothers, deeper in, dug
for antique bottles and other treasures,
where later they stashed their contraband
magazines in the adjacent cemetery.
Of course it wasn’t a lifetime, but when
you’re seven or eight, and seeking solace
far from the endless noise and clatter,
loves have the power to consume and the sense
of a lifetime is skewed. I mean, what
could I know of decades before
I had hit my double digits? I mean, how
else might I imagine time when each
summer stretched far longer
than the ten weeks of the calendar?
For honesty, for clarity, I could just tell you
that I adored toads and the smallest animals
hiding, or well, you might just call it living,
out of sight and under my nose
in the woods across the street.
But then you would have no idea
the intensity of a small girl who spirited
each hot and humid day away from her family
of boys, who found delight in the hunt
for creatures smaller than she, creatures
with the innate good sense to stay tucked
away as rough siblings staked their claim
on that spit of woodland, a girl who loved
bumpy toads the color of dry New England
earth and the slick backs of salamanders
with their finely wrought toes so dearly
that she would hold them in her palms
for just a moment then gently place
them back in their homes, satisfied
that they had survived another day.
Editor’s Note: This narrative poem celebrates girlhood’s intensity unapologetically, normalizing the emotions that feel so large and carefully holding them in the heart so that they can survive until adulthood recognizes their fragility.