Broken Bell Jars by Julia Horwitz Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate

Us girls
we’re taught:

smile
We’re taught:
this is a window display
We’re taught:
we are
silverfish silkworms
slipping around
in a bell jar
in an overturned fishbowl
like there’s only enough oxygen
for some of us

Us girls
we’re taught:
soft skin
but Elmer’s Glue
kind of soft
that sticky
kind of soft
that dripping kind of soft
dripping into whatever container
is thrust under us
drying out
transparent
for everyone to see

Attention:
this is not a window display
just a window

Attention:
observe the tension
when we’re not constantly holding things together
when we’re not constantly filling things up
filling up holes
holes
cracks
gashes

Attention:
step right on those cracks

Attention:
don’t break
you won’t break
you won’t break your mother’s back
because your mother’s back
your mother’s mother’s back
all of your backs
have already been breaking
bending backwards for way too long

Attention:
unfurl
vertebrae stacking
like skyscraper foundations
you’re climbing to the sun

Attention:
unfurl
your fingers

Attention:
unfurl your hair

Watch:
How you’re a monument against the wind

Watch:
how the wind wishes it had your sway

Watch:
how you are a windbreaker
a wind chime
winning barefoot races
against yourself
grass sighing
at the brush of your feet
dawn breaking
at the nape of your neck
breaking
breaking

If we’re going to break
let’s break like that
let’s break wide open
in the middle of intersections

on football game kiss cams
let’s break out of these chrysalises
monarch-wing flames
erupting from our stomachs

Breaking news
breaking bell jars
the fish bowl has been shattered on the floor
It’s cracked
at cracks
in the sidewalk
let’s stop
press seeds between the concrete
press wishes that tower
into each others’ palms

Remember:
My light
doesn’t expose an absence of yours
your light
doesn’t expose an absence of mine

All of this light
is not about to go out against the wind
Because we are monuments against the wind
every summer
female monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles
against the wind

Attention:
This is not a window display
this is a wide open window
let’s give them something
too brilliant
to pin down

Sofia Snow