Open Air by Sapphyre Smith
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Open Air by Sapphyre Smith

Open Air by Sapphyre Smith

There by the wind-wake and diesel fumes, peeling off the road

I can chase a younger version of me to the playground


It’s dark; I can barely see

the swings, but once I’m there I’m a ghost

a dark sweatshirt on a pendulum, a metronome of flesh and bone swinging through empty space

back and forth

trading breaths with winter


I wake up small

again on the swingset

almost sure I can feel short bangs brushing my forehead, braids my mother wove for picture day

clinging staticked to the itchy sweater vest

all curled around the edges of a gap-toothed grin

(my teeth aren’t straightened yet)


The veined arms of a blackened tree stretch out to embrace a cold sky,

the moon is just a streetlamp,

and my shoes block the waxy glow on the upswing,

holes worn through blue inner soles

years had rubbed the treads smooth on carpeted hallways studded with

spilled aquarium pebbles and road salt and crumbled granola

(I’ve worn them since I was thirteen)


but it’s been too long since I was a child—

when I let go at the apex to fly again, I misjudge the landing,

stumble on grown-up legs

and when my ankle twists, first I think:


the medical tape I bought two months ago

how to get to class

will I need to go to the doctor


Then, I think:

the gap-toothed girl would’ve just cried.


All for nothing, anyway. I walk it off,

tuck loose hair behind new piercings she would’ve never imagined

and leave the ghost of myself on the still-rocking swing;


She can find her own way home.