she had a craving for their laughter 

since the first performance for her mom

jokes formed by a mouth never open

and waiting for the right words to come


one day she’d chip her incisor teeth

chewing words like smile and prettier 

and counting spare change left on the bar 

licking the copper off her thumbs


shed paint her eyelids, prepare for war

drinking sewing kits, sex, and ink pens 

carry memory, her cat scarred cheek 

how bleeding felt before she’d gone numb 


little girl with skin not yet condemned 

little girl before the world had her