Emma, Imperceptible

Experimentation was how it started for her,
Using a dead half-moon nail to
Inscribe her dreams into the thin fabric
Of the skin on her arms.
Having no one else to tell them to,
Having nothing else to control.
All it would leave behind those first few times were
Pale shadows of scrapes,
Barely visible, invisible, like her, the way she wanted it.
But her dreams became deeper and darker,
Blackening her insides,
Needing a bigger canvas,
Sharper implements.
And she gave them one.
Her skin
Tore like parchment under the shark teeth razors,
Letting out black bile, melancholia.
She erased the aftermath of her script every time
With the towel discarded by the absent mother.
Nobody knew.
Nobody was there to know.
It was an art known only to her, she thought.
Spiritual, almost,
A hail to the things inside torching her,
Or to the ones that weren’t even there.

She thought she was invisible,
But I could see through the fabrications she
Wrapped around herself
Like a suit of armor.
I saw the cloudy purple bruises blooming on her arms,
The angry red threads lacing the backs of her hands.
I knew when she lied.
Fingers disappearing under stretched sleeves,
She smiled at me,
Weighed, deliberate, frightened.
She can’t keep track of her excuses,
But I do.
She tells me frequently that she
Slips and slices her hands open on
The edge of her unframed mirror.
I frown carefully,
Taking care not to scare her away.
There is no one to tell about Emma.
I am the only one who notices
Or cares.
Perhaps her quiet smiles
Only captivate me.

Alicia Schleifman, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Silver Key

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