Poems & Essays

13 Aug

At Seventeen

General/Column One Response

            for Cassie

At seventeen
I could not see through the haze
of bitterness that followed me
like a cloud of cigarette smoke.

I see you
at seventeen
slaying the dragons of your adolescence,
and then brushing your hands off
on the thighs of your jeans,
untroubled by the weight of your sword.

I see howthe world has favored you,
unfurling petals of kindness
at your touch.
Your challenges have come
balanced with enough sweetness
to keep your eyes bright and open.

At seventeen
I was a pinball of pain
ricocheting through my life,
my frantic energy
speaking nothing of joy.

Until you.
You, the runaway truck ramp,
the detour that saved
my life.

Two pink lines
at seventeen
were the screaming brakes and flying gravel
that brought my wild careening
to a full stop.

And when I began to breathe
again, you taught me
to slow down, to attend
to the beauty in the muted city stars,
the perfection of the cat’s whisker,
the wisdom in your tiny Buddha face.

And now,
as I place the mantle
of all these hopes and dreams
around your shoulders,
I worry – is it too heavy?

Am I sending you into the world
burdened with the impossible weight
of my love for you?
Do all my gifts
drag at your heels like debts?

I could not have borne
such a weight
at seventeen,
but you – you are not me.
You are a mathematical symbol,
a gaping mouth facing West,
the very embodiment of
greater than.

And I am dumbfounded
with gratitude, and relief,
and stupid unearned pride.
I watch you rise
into the sky
like a balloon full of dreams
I did not even know
how to dream.




Laura Todd Carns holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Maryland, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from UMBC. She taught middle school English for several years, and is currently seeking publication for her first novel. Previous writing credits are limited to blog posts, a few pieces on Medium, and a boatload of reading passages for state standardized tests.

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1 Comment

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  1. Ariele

    October 11, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing it!


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