There was a time for innocence.
Before I mastered the art of crumbling in a high school bathroom stall without notice.
Before my first love became first loss, still present tense, still a body unnumbered.
Before I fell for the sickening sweetness of nothing for breakfast, the same for lunch, every dinner afterward.
Before I decided to take a different route home because these houses remind me too much of one I built in you.
Before I began sleeping through all of the alarms, missing appointments, letting the red flags wave in the wind.
Before they all knew me as the girl on fire. When I could just be the girl. Or yours.
Before giving it all away to the wrong pair of hands (and eyes— but they never saw me anyway.)
Before I started writing poems that make my mother cry.
Before trust turned into a hollow, frantic anthem leaving behind a trail of human ashes:
please don’t go, please don’t go, please don’t—
and what a time it was, to have been that empty, that free.