I was never told the difference between control and love
and how the two can be split apart like conjoined twins
each surviving on their own
I just knew.
At 12, I knew who I wouldn’t marry
even though I was reminded
the trash in the barrel was worth more than me.
I was raised on a chessboard
never taught how to wear makeup
but always warned to shut my mouth.
It was here where I began grinding
my teeth at night while sleeping
until my jaw became unhinged.
I was never told how to downshift before hugging
a corner or how to survive off Ramen noodles
I just knew
like when I became a mother
and would sway back and forth
with my crying baby swaddled
in my arms.
Oftentimes, a feeling I can’t define, creeps in
like a familiar scent long forgotten
and infuses itself into papier-mâché,
playdoh and blanket forts under the kitchen table.
They say you carry trauma in your womb, and it passes onto your child.
As I watch my children play
this rubs me raw
where my skin burns to the touch
my feet too heavy to move
yet, somehow, I fall back into what has kept me alive
my instinct to protect
myself and now my children,
to trust what I have always known.