I was born
Born ugly, hook nosed and bloodied.
The father winced. The mother, sore and bleeding, too, laughed.
There is a laugh that mothers have, it's a mermaid song, a lioness screaming — but cloaked in gaiety.
My mother laughed.
You are protected, sweet girl.
Some mothers do not laugh when their children are born. They are solemn as cold stone.
These children grow long fingernails and thick tongues.
These children are without tribe. They will always carry the stone-mother shadow. Even through a thousand hours of expensive therapy.
But my mother laughed. Hook-nosed and bloody, ugly baby. Men winced. My mother laughed.
I was schooled
Walk down the path of saints, they are your guardians.
My old, brown loafers had pebbles in them. The hem of my skirt was loose.
My bangs were crooked.
My will was too vigorous. It was hooked up to many machines.
It had a hydraulic power source, like a staccato jackhammer, new and shiny. It was only 5 years old.
It also had a defibrillator.
Fuel burning constantly.
It was gorgeous.
This will machine confused everyone who didn't understand it.
My father raged at it with a thin leather belt, worn on the edges, the metal clasp amok with hair-thin scratches.
My teachers mocked it. Humiliated it. Took it by the wrist and dragged it.
My friends ignited it and warmed their desert-flat minds by it. The cool air replaced by fire exploding.
My mother sung to it. She caressed it. She winked at it.
I walked down the paths of saints.
I sat in empty churches.
Punished for starting fires.
Natalie Campisi is a Los Angeles-based writer and journalist.