Miriam Kramer

To Johnny, Age 16

At two years old, your favorite things are cars;
actually, you have a penchant for nouns
like me who travel.

And as I said goodbye to you today on Skype,
my chest was a battered suitcase, the leather worn,
brass clasps slowly tarnishing.

And it is full of shattered marbles that I collected
when they lacked any perceivable imperfections,
but they have gradually fragmented.

They remind me that I am alive because I can hear
their jagged edges scraping together, but I’ve grown
to picture them becoming bright, multicolored sand.

So Johnny, please do not mistake
damaged for worthless or broken for irreparable
let me teach you that it is always okay to cry—

in the moments when you find yourself on the brink
not fully sure of the whys, allow yourself to let go.
Do not blink away the pain, or shut your eyes on the fear,

tears can help clear away some of the tumult of your mind.
Like the time I was flying home after spending a week with you.
I was aimlessly wandering the airport, and there was a woman selling praline.

She handed me an extra piece as my eyes were already welling.
She had no way of knowing about the phone call I had received.
She had no way of knowing about my friend’s fractured skull.

I just thanked her, and let the sugar slowly dissolve in my mouth
mixed with the salt of unwiped tears. I felt the familiar weight
between my ribs. I touched the skin below my collarbone—

half expecting to be poked by glass
and thought about how for the first month of your life
I could only call you ‘the baby’.

As I write this, you are ‘JOHNNY’.
As I write this, you are ‘SWEETHEART’.
As I write this, you are “BABY BOY—

I would do anything to ensure you won’t hurt the ways I have.”
You know, right before you were born I told your father,
my brother, I was afraid I would fail you—

that it would be better if you didn’t know me.
Johnny, at 16, the world will be unfailingly disappointing.
But Baby, I will never leave you.

Published 11-10-17

Miriam Kramer studied Creative Writing at Pacific University, and works at a local bookstore. Her work has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review and Rat’s Ass Review. She lives in Bound Brook, NJ, with her faucet obsessed cat, Ernie. Miriam is overly sentimental, often rescuing items from other peoples’ garbage.

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