“Calavera” by Mackenzie Tatananni

Mackenzie Tatananni (age 14)


I practice touching my bones
The pearly hillcaps of my knees
The dips and valleys of my hips
Early mornings, I roll onto my back
And lay silent and still
Except for one prodding finger
Which travels up the flat planes
Of my stomach
To the bottom
Of my ribs
Once there I touch every single one
Admiring the way the bones roll under my fingers
Like the bars of a steel birdcage
They’re mine
All mine
So beautiful and fragile
That sometimes I forget how to breathe
I lie there in half-darkness
Frothy blankets hiked up to my chin
And think
This is what it’s like to be dead
I imagine flesh peeling from my shoulders
All those extra pounds
Going going gone
So my bones can finally jut
Into the mattress
The way they’re supposed to
Like swords or scissor blades
My hands wander down to my thighs
Where I roll an inch of skin between my fingers
Dreaming of my bones
In all their matchstick glory
Flashing for the world to see
Outside, the sky turns honey-amber
Roiling, rotting
The smell of baking pavement’s ripe in my throat
I shrug back the covers and stand up.
Breakfast is on the table
But I don’t look at it
Don’t breathe it in
And I most definitely don’t sit down
Or else I’d have to suffer through the feeling
Of my thighs oozing
Against the seat
Almost like pancake batter
Or pizza dough
And then Momma walks through the doorway
And she sees me standing there
Sees the way my t-shirt hangs from my shoulders
I focus on the monster orchids
Craning through the open window
Not on her
Anything but her
She sets another plate on the table
And stares at me
The heat is suffocating
I shift a little on the floorboards
Feet sticking to the wood
I wonder if I should turn and leave the room
I wonder if I should say anything at all

from 2016 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Mackenzie Tatananni: “Because if I don’t get my ideas down they’ll eat me from the inside-out.”

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