Cassoday Harder
Photo courtesy of Cassoday Harder

This is where I like to go
before I get to the cracked vase

of our life together.
The places we once existed

but no longer fit right,
taken at a time before

things didn’t make sense,
not because I couldn’t understand them

but because I was a child,
I shouldn’t have had to.

A time that had yet to sear into me the image
of my mother hunched over the sink

in our kitchen, yellowed to the shade of a pack a day,
her apron snug against her house dress

talking, talking, always talking
to shadows, finger jabbing

left then right, tossing accusations out
to the people only she could see.

This photograph is a birthright,
an homage to what my childhood should have been;

lucky enough to never know
what the after would taste like.

That girl, no older than three,
in her red dress and puffy ponytails

has not yet learned to pour out the stove top brews
and purple pills her mother will make her take daily,

down the bathroom sink,
into the toilet bowl,

behind the brown couch
even though it stains the fabric and carpet,

anywhere but down her throat again.

All she knows is the warmth of her mother’s lap and
the feel of strong arms holding her.

She does not know how she will fail
the first grade because her mother

kept her home with no symptoms,
no doctor’s notes, no truth

behind the excuses.
That she’ll never invite friends over

because she doesn’t know what to tell them
if they ask her about her mother’s imaginary friends.

Or that she’ll attempt to run away when she’s twelve,
or that she’ll look up homes for girls in the yellow pages

in the middle of the night and have long conversations
at Sunshine Something Or Another House

about bunk beds and curfews and dream
of being there instead. She does not know

how she’ll trade in her eighth grade year
for sleeping all day and watching trash TV all night

so that she’ll have to
spend the summer in school.

All the girl in that photograph knows
is her mother’s smile, the white of her suit,

the golden clip on earrings.
The way they were happy.

And I envy her lack of knowledge,
the sense of free she must have had

to be in that moment
and only that moment.




Talicha J. is an American Poet, Spoken Word Artist and Aspiring Novelist. In 2010 she was a member of the Respect Da Mic Slam team based in Charlotte, NC. Earlier this year she released her debut poetry album, In the Making. Talicha also competed on a national level for the first time at the Women of the World Poetry Slam and the Individual World Poetry Slam this year, ranking among the top 40 and top 30 respectively. She is currently working on her debut book of poetry and planning her first American tour. Her work has appeared in Four Quarters Magazine, Concrete Generation Magazine, and Boston Poetry Magazine.

Cassoday Harder is a twenty-year-old photographer inspired by youth, femininity, and summer. View more of her work on Flickr or visit her website.

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