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Purple

By Kayleigh Birch

I was born on August 5th and that’s some kind of confessional
to knives stuck in peaches and other ways I can bring in the sun
I’ve never met any of my heroes and they would never want to meet me
because no one like reprints of things they have done
some days 
I’m called “Mango” by the people who love me
most days
I’m waiting in the abstract of what I’m becoming
these days 
a quarter of the time I’ve been alive has slipped me
like the third track of a D-side 
that never stops skipping

I was raised in Venice Beach where everyone’s a Leo 
and when I turned five
I learned that I could talk to seagulls 
and I couldn’t tell you when I stopped believing that the fairies 
left dewdrops in the garden overnight
secretly and swiftly 
watching ivy grow from start to never-quite-finished

And I have always known that I’ll never be a mother 
or a wife or anything that keeps me useful to another
I’m better as the girl who works best in some forlorn teenage dream
with the faith to keep believing
who crosses her legs and watches the world move by
and stains all her clothing with fuchsia hair dye
and still climbs small-town hills to watch the summer sky
dip into polluted night
I’ll grow up sometime if you don’t get tired of it
but my shadow never liked the grown-up gimmicks
of impossible chess games and forgetting last names 
and other things that real people do

I am a person who is good at explaining herself
Who waits to trade geese for butterflies
Who is embarrassed of everything she has ever written 
Who is a 5’11 stepping stone to something better
Who is a fucked-over roadmap to where real love is hidden
like the clothes pooled in the backseat of someone’s parent’s car
Built from enemies to friends to lovers to nothing
I swear in that dream that I never stopped running

I am a person who breaks her own heart to see what color it bleeds this time
overexposed and ripe
from a blue-blooded creature in a red-handed crime
I am a person whose favorite color is purple until something better comes along
but nothing ever does

I am a collection of 
all of my childhood friends’ homes
with sweet tea and trampolines and ice-cold swimming pools
and strawberries coated in sugar and Surfin’ USA 
playing past-life pirates and watching our shadows chase butterflies 
in the imagination of children-no-longer who never had to change
I am where Via Marina meets Tahiti Way
and the skatepark concrete gets sand under your trucks 
I am the skin pressed in the self-induced palmistry of breaking a fall on the rocks
(can you read between the lines?) 
and the deep part in the ocean where your head begins to pop
and you swear you see a dolphin underwater 
but no one ever believes you
like when you know the house is haunted 
but you creak the floor yourself
In the space between blue nights and blue days
the ghosts come and go but your shadow always stays 

I am the first and last person to say “I love you”
to people who are better at saying
“you always look so cool” 
like a fifth-favorite one-way mirror
who will twist her own knife just to see someone clearer

scattered and jumbled and ripe for someone’s brutal taking
like an alchemist who secretly turns gold from all the breaking

but I think I am tired
most of all 

I was born in ’99 and I still find it frightening
that I am older than computers and cars and weddings and babies
and I am older than my father’s mother when she had her first child
and I am older than small rocks and cheap wine and the two screws housed in my knee
and I have no greater flesh to show for it
except where I marked my nose to cut in the mirror
and lift up my eyelids to see myself clearer 
but everyone spites their face
and everything I’ll ever make
of my words and hands and cheeks
has been done by someone with a more graceful tongue 

all poetry is bad and 
mine is no exception 

I am a person who used to be afraid of everything that could fill me
who sits at the brim and waits in the light
under blue skies from time to different time
and just when everything makes sense
it changes to pink right before my eyes
and only when my fingers press too deep 
do I see how my skin never thickened 

It’s me
the reigning queen of self-mythos
in the form of gold rings and remnants of other people that never go back to summer
hungry for seconds
sick from the hours
I don’t believe we’ve met before
but I’ll count the time on my tongue so we both can share it
since when I was a kid I thought I’d never grow older
but I kept getting taller and my hair grew past my shoulders
and I’m here
and it’s all coming apart in the water
like stitches meshed in my new scars
so if no one is really listening
it’s okay if I keep going

I’m here 
and I rub my eyes to remember how fireworks look
and do laundry with old lovers’ dryer sheets
and dream of algae growing from my spine to my soles 
and it’s okay that I cut off my sleeves for the heart I tore apart from the seams
and the soil and the stars it was foraging in 
to see all the tree park and pixie dust I’ve been melting through 
for twenty years and change

I’m here 
and every time I become something new 
I realized I always already who I needed to be

I’m here
and I haven’t chased a butterfly since I was a child
but I’ve been seeing them more than usual

Kayleigh Birch, from Los Angeles, is in her final semester of her degree, graduating from the University of Toronto with a double major in English and Cinema Studies. This fall, she will begin her Screenwriting MFA at UCLA (’22). She has been writing poetry, scripts, fiction (novels and prose), and songs her whole life: her other published works can be found in The Los Angeles Times, The Strand Magazine, and The Louisville Review. Her debut poetry novel, Love Letters Only, can be purchased on Amazon, and her portfolio can be viewed at https://kayleighbirch.wixsite.com/portfolio

Boundaries are the keepers of your imagination in solitary confinement. To break a boundary today is to do the unimaginable: to make sense of someone new and discover something foreign in somewhere seemingly familiar. Each of us, whether we want to or not, carry our own boundaries: our armour, our big, blue walls, and our swollen hearts in gilded cages. In my piece, I wonder what it would look like to take off the helmet and watch myself crumble with the world. It comes down to something simple: I felt myself changing, and I wanted to remember before I became a “new me,” who I had been in my own words. I wondered, if I were on my last days, how would I want someone to know me, and if it looks anything like how I would like to know them. I don’t think we are very different.

Photo credit: Sasha Freemind

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