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Prayers from my 20 year old mouth





Plus seventeen

Minus seventeen 

What’s your middle name

What’s your tattoo 

I say we as often as I can 

I say your name as often as I can

I love referring to you




Red Winter Coat


My father is very old and he imagines me with my hair yet to ever be cut and dancing on a street corner at Christmastime in a red winter coat with gold buttons. No matter how old I get it's one of the few things my mother and father agree on is me in that red winter coat. They don’t speak but I am still a little girl in a red winter coat, cheeks pink and hair uncut. My mother’s father is old and sick. I wonder sometimes if my mom and I will be sisters in father-grief, if our dads will die at the same time. I wonder if he’ll live to see me marry. I wonder if standing in a white dress he’d still see a little girl dancing in a red winter coat. Or will he be a ghost?


When I was in England, I needed to buy a winter coat and of course I walked away with a big red winter coat because there’s a part of me that still wants to be the girl dancing on the corner with her frozen pink cheeks and her uncut hair. 




I nod and pretend that I am not a ghost that cannot smell, taste, or touch. They blush and smile with a coy look about how delicious it is. I imagine how it must be to taste a man's tongue, or to feel the broad heat of his chest. They’re describing this burst of light, this color and sound, a Michelangelo, a Mozart, a magnum opus of senses. I sneak away to try and paint it myself but the paints are all white and gray and my brushes were stolen from a kindergarten classroom, dulled with dry old paint. I try to sing the song but only dust falls out of my mouth, along with a few teeth. I’m just haunting the house, knocking things off the wall, rattling door knobs, and giving everyone a vague sense of unease. You describe to me the melted butter on freshly baked bread, dripping and oozing with flavor, fat, and comfort, and it all turns to sand in my mouth. I would do anything to touch, taste, feel, smell this-






this thing everyone seems to know about.


“I’m sure you’re excited to finally be with him again.”

“Oh, yes, we won’t be going anywhere for a few days,” she says with a knowing smile, full of gladness and secret joy. I crinkle my eyes to break through the ghost face with a real smile to give back to her. It’s not her fault that I am what I am.


Someone held my hand once. I thought I might burst into flames when he put his hand around my waist. It was impossible to ignore what had bloomed between me. He kissed my cheek and I almost died. But then I told him I’d never been kissed and he kissed me. I could feel my bloom wilt and shrivel. I kept the kiss cold and pointed, scared to move my mouth in case my soul might escape and be devoured through his mouth. He kissed me two more times and I couldn’t stand it. And I died again, shrinking back into my ghost body. 

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