When I was born, my parents etched their names
into the blade of a sword and
laid it in my hands.
I carry it like a loaded gun.
My belt sags heavier as I get older, a grievous inventory:
three coiled whips from my brothers, braided and knotted up
with bookmarks, backyard twigs, tape from unwound cassettes.
two finger knives carved from pine needles and
the old safety pins my sister and I used
to write our stories intertwined.
a paper-fledged arrow stained with salamander ink,
one garrote sliced from a single guitar string,
a hand-axe made of car door hinges
and rusted train tracks.
I wish I could say my fingers never
flew to my waist, itching to draw blood,
that each aging gift is not tinged with dark traces of regret.
I wish I could say my scars don’t wear the shapes
of everything I chose to give away.
As for the sword, I am glad of its weight. I am glad
that to step without it seems strange, incomplete.
Too many mothers I’ve seen reeling,
their children’s blades sunk to the hilt,
but they don’t cry for the pain of it, they don’t seem
to notice their own bodies torn nearly in two:
they knew all along what it meant to give a child a weapon.
I only see them dazed at the fingerprints left behind,
trying to comprehend the incomprehensible—
how bewildering, how unbearable,
that someone grown so much a part of you
might drive your love
back through your heart
and walk away.