The Ugly Duckling Rehashes Her Past

He did not notice the small white envelopes
with children’s names scrawled in bright pink ink.
Eva. Alex. Piper. Soleil. Something happy about
the way the letters were shaped, so that even
before the seal was broken, you knew
a party waited inside.

But I noticed. No white envelope labeled Finn.
I looked in his cubby again and again
to be sure it wasn’t tucked beneath ski socks
or fallen behind his tissue collage. It was not,
and how the dark hole in me reappeared then,
how I was young and sad again,
watching other kids open their lockers
to find invitations to roller skate parties
and sleepover dates.

I don’t remember their names, those popular kids.
But I remember their laughter and how I would look
at the concrete wall, my coat, my foot,
or dig deeper into my own locker looking for some
imaginary something, something wonderful and mine.

Sometimes to heal a wound we need render it raw.
And what’s left of the injury is nothing at all,
just layers of scars built up over years, protecting
what no longer needs a shield. Sometimes
invitations don’t come in envelopes. They arrive
in empty cubbies behind the ski socks.

I would protect my boy if I could from the hole
that comes with feeling not good enough. Or
at least I would give him a pin made of love,
imaginary and fine, meant for poking that dark hole
full of small dints so he’d see how eventually
from behind the darkness,
light streams in.

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