her father said it was his favorite thing about her, that she was a hunter, like he is.
she holds its head up for the picture. she wears an orange hat. now the deer
unfolds from itself like the fortune telling paper folded and labeled with
possible outcomes. the deer’s eyes dark and its body flat. I was not so calm
at death as she. she is twelve now. I remember when I was twelve, when I began
to take notice of men, thought if I was pure enough they could never
touch me, that I’d float away on quiet feet if they got too close. I’d just go upward,
and utterly silent. some animals piss on themselves to deter
predators, I didn’t brush my hair, I wore ugly underwear my mother purchased
for me in plastic bulk, I focused my gaze upward with my heart hot in my throat.
Layla, it is around this time you discover the existence of horrible people,
men with gray lips with spit foaming at the edge of their mouths,
the looks on the faces of girls you know that will feel like acid, their laughter
will eat at you the same way acid does and they are casual with it. You will begin to recognize the wedge-faced boys with big teeth and a sour smell, like sweat and milk,
you will learn that everything you do feeds their hunger.
I wonder if you will want to be far away, just somewhere else
on the other side of the world, or perhaps in a forest where you
wake in a tent or in a shelter of branches. I wonder if you will
want to be in a city, in an all-white apartment of your own, those
apartments that I know don’t exist that look like the netsuke one sees
now and again in museums, those little curls of bone. I wonder if you will
want to wake in your blue bedroom with a glass of water next to you, full of still
bubbles where the air got in. Layla, I will not tell you to freeze yourself as you are, to preserve time for anyone to spoon out your youth into a jar and graze against time with your feet. You will grow, you will come to know your own capabilities as some people come to know the positions of stars, or how to speak another language.
It is not for me to whisper to you across this divide.