I am a Thousand Lanterns

By @Selina

I am a Thousand Lanterns

By @Selina

Chapter 1

Dirty fingernails and splitting nooses,

The smell of alcohol and the click of razors

That was my story, but I wanted a different one.

I am a thousand lanterns, so different, so light

But one day, every single one will go out.

I remember the piles of matted teddy bears

And the sliver of lavender soap that stuck to my hand

Soft hands brushing the hair from my reddened face

As I tried to catch fireflies in the humid summer.

But I was a match in a beating storm,

And the flame will always go out

Against buckets of pouring rain.

A broken crown of long forgotten happiness

Rest atop my cinnamon hair

Dying stars that lit up my eyes

And strings that tied my tongue to my teeth

Until I bled with silent tears, but no one could hear.

I remember my cousin’s grandfather clock

That sounded like the steady beating of my father’s heart

Before he closed the rusting iron gate

Leaving me alone in the world that seemed so much colder.        

My mother’s rosy cheeks and her golden curls

Gave way to a thin pale face and oily waves,

And her hearty laugh that sounded like caramel

Shrunk back into a darkened corner,

Far from light and never to be seen again

From here on now to the day the pills finished her.

I was force-fed spoonfuls of artificial happiness

The box claims that there are nutrients in there,

All good for your body and your health

But really—all it does is kills,

Unrecognized until a grave has been carved.

And so each day was a nail in my coffin,

A shovel of dirt out of my soon-to-be tomb.

I spun out of control, a flicker of gold inside a tornado

So I turned to the one thing that I could control:


So now I stand on the chair, a skeleton smothered in clothes

Sharp hipbones sticking out of ripped blue jeans

Shadows of guilt under my drooping eyes

Shivering hands that can’t even tie my shoes.

Your past does not define you; that’s what they say,

But if they had stepped into my worn-out sneakers

Felt the heart that they tried to mend

With poorly sewn string and fraying patches

And touched the tears that pour out onto my pillow

They would not say so.

For my past does define me, and it has marked my body

With thin lines the light of an African sunset

The feel of a dancer’s silky dress

Ribbons on a neatly wrapped box

The color of the blood that spills down my sink.

It has marked my body with its withering muscle,

The cold that covers me like a blanket,

The cracked lips of my mouth as I try to scream for help.

My past is my present and my future

So it was not I who tied the rope onto the rafters

As snowflakes waltzed through the open window.

It was my past, my present, and my future.

My story could’ve been so much better.

If my father had not left and stayed the king

To our small but faithful kingdom

Lifted me up on his shoulders and kissed my hair,

And my mother only took pills for her headaches,

Still laughing at the soap opera on the TV

And if only I had taken up that first razor

Looked in the mirror at my freckles, my eyes

Looked at everything they loved about me

Then realized that people loved me with all their strength

Then maybe, maybe

My story would be different.

But it is not, for my lanterns have gone out

The final one blown away with a gust of wind

That smelled of pine trees and chocolates and sorrow.

Maybe if someone, anyone, from the school treasurer

To the tattooed lady who drives the 4:09 bus

To the boy with the green hair who always sold soda

Had asked me if I was okay, then I might

Just might

Look into their worried faces, see the care that lit it up,

And say


What would have happened then? I don’t know

I might’ve gotten better; but no one cared enough to ask me

So we will never find out.

All I know is that I will feel worthless, a waste of space

I will curse the Heavens for creating me

But when I step off that chair and into Death’s timeless night,

I will regret it.




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