Poems & Essays

18 Sep

Sometime After Thirteen

General/Column 2 Responses

Sometime after thirteen, she’ll start to slip away. At least that’s what they tell you. She’ll lay her dolls inside a box and slide the box beneath her bed. Monster High girls, My Little Ponies, pressed into a cardboard coffin. She’ll want makeup and a curling iron, jewelry, and too-small clothes. You’ll have to watch her with the boys.

Sometime after thirteen, her laugh will start to fade. The blush of sun that is her smile will darken to a moonless night. The stars that are her eyes will turn to shadows. She’ll wrap herself inside a shroud, emerging as a stranger; within the shroud her childhood’s left to burn. You’ll have to let her go, they say.

My daughter is a room. I throw roses / through her window. I read this poem when my daughter was three—lines etched into my heart. The poem was called “Difficult Daughters.” I’ve never had a difficult daughter. She bends toward me like a sunflower.

My daughter is pink cowgirl boots and skirts in every color. She is laughter on a rocking horse. She is the wrong lyrics to a Beatles song, singing “Whisper words of wisdom, little bee.” She is a fearless jump into the deep end, strapped into a strawberry 2-piece suit. She is a nervous pause at the top of a hill on a bike without training wheels.

My daughter is a hand reaching for mine even when they’re the same size. She is frustration at an unsolved equation and delight at a perfect drawing. She is the fit of giggles after a bad joke. She is the poem I could never write.

My daughter is a room. I stand in doubt within her doorway. She is thirteen. She invites me in. Her bed still piled with dolls.

My daughter is fourteen and she glides from my closet, leaving a trail of clothes like party streamers. She says what do you think and twirls once in my shimmering blue dress, wearing my silver wedding shoes. She is taller than I am and fresh-faced with a cherry-sun smile and starry eyes and I tell her you look lovely and she says I want to look like you.




Elizabeth Maria Naranjo lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband and two children. Her work has been published in Brevity Magazine, Superstition Review, The Portland Review, SLAB Literary Magazine, Literary Mama, Babble, Hospital Drive, YA Review Network (YARN), and a few other places. Her debut novel, The Fourth Wall, was released in June 2014 through WiDo Publishing. Links to Elizabeth’s work can be found on her website, elizabethmarianaranjo.com.

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Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Oma Naranjo

    September 23, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Oh, Elizabeth, that’s beautiful. I love your writing.

  2. Kimberly Rex

    September 7, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    This is such beautiful writing. Soft and lovely.


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