She had lived so long in only a pink nightgown
fraying at the cuffs, clean as a whistle.
It was easy, at first; and then it was harder,
and she had to arch away from the outstretched claws
that threatened to dirty her pretty-girl honor.

Soon the monsters began to pursue her, and she could not
tiptoe away fast enough.
One night they entered her bedroom as she lay asleep,
hair sprawled over pillow,
and into her side they stuck long spindling fingers, black with filth.

What is maturity without corruption? They were doing their own work.
Three hundred speared fingers, and when she woke up she looked in the mirror and
the span of white she saw before her was all wrong.

Her lines and blemishes and
eyebrows, going all in the wrong direction,
jumped at her, put hands over her mouth so that her breathing was shallow and frantic.
There was pain where there never had been before
in her chest, her throat, her abdomen.

She watched girls around her run long fingers through long hair, so that it fell
just so around thin shoulders and bra straps, readily displayed.
To her the world seemed too adult, too soon, around her were the waiting mouths of adolescent boys
but she still blushed and her hair still frizzed.

A glance in the mirror turned to hours,
turned to bottles and brushes and six types of lip stain,
all lined up in a neat little row.

As she got older she found her matches, met men who told her that she was beautiful
and for them wore satin lingerie and let them show her what it meant to be
newly corrupted.
Still, though; when the front door swung shut and the covers were cold
she’d watch her face move in a full-wall mirror
see its movement and how when it moved it left behind a space, an empty space in glass,
and she wondered distantly what had happened to that pink nightgown,
fraying at the cuffs,
clean as a whistle.

Maya Lockman-Fine, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Silver Key

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