Are you Listening? (Mine to Keep)

On a not-so-lazy Sunday afternoon I was
getting about ready to burn all my paints,
books, pens and beads all to the
muddy, dusty yet green Midwestern ground—
—until a voice that sounded like a vivacious,
ginger-haired, eighteen-year-old version of
myself crawled into my room like a spider and
made this razor-sharp and poignant sound:

“Tell me, petulant darling, since when did
music, coffee and cupcakes decide to stop
making you laugh? And who told you that
society suddenly became God?”
My brain was completely blank and
terribly stunted, so I couldn’t answer
her. All I could do was flash a false smile
and give a weak, robotic nod.
“Little cadaver girl, are you listening? Don’t
you realize that now you’re dying way
before your time?” The voice grew sharper
and sharper, until I let out a bitter weep—
—until she carried me into her arms, lay me
down on my bed with my eyes facing upward.
She softly dried my eyes, stroked my ratty hair and
whispered and sung to me lightly till I fell asleep.

Upon waking, she was smiling at me, and played
me some lovely, soulful song—one I heard for the
very first time when I was not even teen-aged. It
reminded me to wake up again—from a second sleep.
She reminded me that I made her proud now that I
am now listening. But, she had to leave, and once left alone
I put my paints, books, pens and beads back in place—
—because they sure as hell are mine to keep and only keep.

-Christine Byczkiewicz

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