I was a god like any other, startled by my hands, poised to spring. Landed
on the edge of seven, elbows inscribing pavement, my shoelaces unraveling. I learned curse words
from the boys, slipped them between hops, shouted them psalm on the street that looked like a postcard with the back blank,
the shutters claimed by daisies. In Ohio all my favorite birds died of blunt force trauma against glass doors. The good men
wore white shirts and choked the cleanest women in the sedan to church. We played hopscotch, played
until our scraped knees hurt worse than the whistle of a switch, worse than the thwack of firewood,
worse than our torn hides in midnight basements, breathing. The schoolteacher kept rulers sharp
in her desk, warm for our knuckles. Sometimes we stole chalk from her chalkboard to paint the game
out back, drew footprints like weapons. How long ago was it that I realized this town would never love me back? Girls
went into alleys and did not come out. Girls went into churches and did not come out and I was not scared,
more quiet. Hopscotching to the next spot, the sun spinning like a phonograph. And we prayed, but only to the physical,
the switch, the boys in empty stadiums, the men who took us out behind the shed
wielding wood they cut themselves, oh, they were good men, almost worthy gods, damned if they’d ever let a girl talk back.
Gaia Rajan lives in Andover, MA. She's the Managing Editor of The Courant and the Poetry Editor for Saffron Lit. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in DIALOGIST, Rust + Moth, Hobart, Kissing Dynamite and elsewhere. She is a 2020 National Student Poet semifinalist, and her chapbook, Moth Funerals, is forthcoming from Glass Poetry Press. She is sixteen years old.