Sanctuary by Cassidy Martin Nashville Youth Poet Laureate

For three years my sanctuary was four baby blue painted walls.
A lighthouse for a toothbrush holder
A small window above the shower
to let out steam.
The old wooden floor that wasn’t even
had been a second bed to me
many times.
I had baptized that toilet a thousand,
had cleansed that floor a million,
scrubbed and wiped that room more times than I had ever brushed my hair.
My sanctuary
was the only place I could escape
his anger,
reach my Heavenly Father’s shelter.
The only place I could go once an hour
when I was put with my nose in the corner
even though I was already a fifth grader.
The only place where my legs could finally fold and tears could finally fall.
Defeat was to let them see me cry.
My heart recreated those baby blue walls within myself.
I let the corner of my sanctuary cradle me.
Leaned against the door and stared at the window above the shower.
It was only five inches tall and two feet long with a half broken screen.
But with my imagination
I daydreamed
if I was five inches I could leave.
Play with abandoned cats outside,
with the other trailer kids that danced to Spanish music as they slurped popsicles from the edges of their lips.
I daydreamed I could escape, if I were as small as I felt,
from my sanctuary
that smelled like lavender glade candles,
and a dirty litter box.
Where the mirror was stained with the puss from the pimples of two teenage girls.
My sanctuary had the only door that had a lock,
the kind you had to move up and over,
slide into its place.
I loved that lock
because I had none
except my sanctuary.
Tires against broken cement gravel whispered to me that he was home.
The rustle of a brown paper lunch bag,
a bottle against the counter, tapped me on my shoulder.
The clink of dirty dishes against the sink and a belt buckle; twins
that I could always tell apart.
In my sanctuary
I kept a journal in the cabinet under the sink
with faded rainbow of markers and stickers on the cover,
plenty of ripped-out, crinkled, and once-damp pages.
Buried behind cleaning supplies it grew to smell like bleach.
A pen I taped to it,
too clever to realize I could just stick it between its pages.
When I laid my head against the paper,
when I watched the ink bleed between college-ruled blue lines,
I stopped crying.
My worries were the steam from the shower, slipping out the window above it.
Cuddling up with the biggest towel we had,
using the top of the toilet lid as a desk,
I lost some of the comfort a bed gives me
I don’t think I’ll ever be used to it again.
I grew up ten years in three.
I learned
how writing felt, that it was therapy itself.
Better than any counselor at school who couldn’t comprehend that kids my age could fight a war so early.
Better than any friend who was too young-minded to understand mine.
I realized plaster on the ceiling feels like marshmallows.
I couldn’t be that soft anymore.
And I wonder if other kids my age have a sanctuary in this city?
I wonder if the answer is evident in us getting gunned down in the street
as the government becomes deaf to our screams from the living room,
or if neighbors really didn’t hear me yelling so loudly.
Just like no one heard the riot at NSA when adults tried to jump children.
Like the gunshot a few blocks away from Pearl Cohn didn’t resonate and rip through more than one chest, a bullet hitting more than one heart.
Where are the sanctuaries in our homes if we don’t want to be there?
And there are plenty of sanctuaries in Nashville.
That’s why I want to be here.
But a lot of people can’t find them.
A lot of kids my age have no safe place.
So if you can’t find one,
come find me
and I’ll share mine,
so you can finally say…
Sanctuary.

Sofia Snow