Tenderness she says a feat pulled out of thin air passively plucked
like a wildflower that she gingerly tucks behind her ear tenderness
I hesitate a feat pounded out with a hammer one I grew
accustomed to that once made me wince but now I meet unwilling
yet unflinching you see one is hard because the shrapnel is so
terrifyingly unfamiliar the other because you conquered this war
one hundred years ago and they keep making you go back acting
like it’s the first time you’ve been a body free-falling down flights
of stairs their seismic force weighting your chest stars exploding in
the periphery until it’s lights out:
later you pluck twigs out of your hair
and line them up on your dresser, just so.
later you kneel at their carpeted feet
the truth is you could carry her bloody maw in your victorious fist
every single time your ravenous aching learned survival your heart
beating its wild now familiar rhythm the one they beg you to never
speak on but instead:
tenderness, you agree
bowing your head
tucking a wildflower behind your ear
quelling the fire stoked at the core of you.
Rachael Cain is from Peterborough, Ontario and lives in Banff National Park. She's an arts administrator, visual artist and writer. You can follow her on Instagram @paperfortunesart.