Poem of the Week: ‘Fourteen’ by Jessica Sheridan

When you’re fourteen you’re not ready
Barely steady, barely standing
Giddy for something
A beautiful anything
To fill in the blanks.
There are sketches on the page
The stage is set
Nothing ready yet for reveal
But someday you’ll finish
A towering feat of humanity and beauty.
You’re a whole universe inside
Impatient and unsatisfied with the wait
To see completion
But you’re fourteen and you’re not quite ready.

But like children who sneak
Down to peak beneath the tree
We are all eager to see
The magic
Frantic for the romantic notion of us.
I was fourteen and I was not ready
But you were. You
So much older and already person enough
To decide I was ready to grow up
To be finished –
Before I even knew what I was supposed to look like.
You handed me the blueprint
Said to trust it
Trust you to know what my best me would be
And so eager to finish
I let you take the paint brush from my fingers
And paint over me.

Brick by broken brick
I built myself where you stood
Sticking shards together
Cutting my hands on the pieces you gathered
Wearing adulthood like an oversized dress
Not really sure what you saw
But told you knew best.
Each lash of your tongue worked me harder
Mixing colours and mortar
That never quite matched
Scrambling to finish what you were building
A pillar to humanity
On feet not my own
No balance but never falling.
Building walls of stone and finding no safety within
Painting over cracks with flowers and gifts
Stacking stones on my tower
Building higher and higher until I could not see
And I was not ready.

But wasn’t it beautiful
You created me beautiful
And I didn’t dare stop smiling for fear the paint would crack.
I couldn’t take back the blank canvas
So why break it now?
I was finished
And finished is all others saw
A masterpiece
Not the canvas beneath
Choking for air
Through the despair of your brush strokes
Tears never smudging pastels
My whole world darkness and chalk dust.
But they never saw past the conjecture of art
Because why not trust a pretty picture?
And you’re not fourteen anymore.

Seven years I waited
For still life to feel like living
Trapped inside but not wanting to leave
Knowing freedom would destroy
Everything that held me together.
We are all artworks only I did not paint mine
This wasn’t art
This was work
This was not my best me
It was his.
I was the sculpture, not creator
Unable to breathe
Unable to move
And I would give anything to be unfinished
Because I was fourteen and I was not ready.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Facebook: Zac's Doodles

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