By Maz Hedgehog
PLEASE LEAVE A MESSAGE AFTER THE BEEP.
I made it. I let down my braids, slipped off my shoes and gave myself to the sky. I don’t have to tell you it hasn’t been easy. You saw how many times I crashed back to earth and lay there, wheezing through shattered ribs and torn lungs. You know all about my calluses, how they seemed more mine than my own skin. I never said how many times I gave up, resigned myself to the clay. Yes, even born as I was, with so much quicksilver in my veins. But I spilled so much on mountainsides that leather bound arms and concrete feet began to feel too much like home.
A long time ago, on one of those nights where the air is so still we could breathe hurricanes into being, on one of those nights neither of us dared cry or laugh or speak too hard, I told you something. Or maybe you told me, or perhaps we came to a mutual unspoken understanding in the way that we do. But by morning we knew that my blisters and scars and nerve endings were locked together like scales or spider webs or honeycomb. Today I traced the pattern they made, touching each needle-fine edge and blurred boundary gently as a whisper, and learned a new way of saying “beautiful”. I learned how to mean it.
I wish I’d listened when you told me that the line between comfort and a cage is made of fishing wire; when you told me that broken bones could heal stronger; when you touched my scar tissue and said it looked like shooting stars. If only I’d been paying attention when you wiped away my tears and cradled my face and told me that every time I crashed into the sand, I melted a little more into glass and made sculptures. I’m glad you kept them safe, ready for the day I can claim them. But sometimes – always – I wonder what would have happened if I were a little less arrogant, a little less bleak? How much faster and further could I have soared?
But that’s not why I’m calling, not really. I’m calling to tell you I can fly, that the air up here tastes like candyfloss and breath mints. I’m calling you because the clouds help me forget to be afraid of the ground or of pain or of sunlight. I’m calling because I know what it means to have skin and that calluses are skin; the grandchildren of blisters that make it a little harder to hurt me.
I’ll be back soon, when I’m ready. I want to know what wine tastes like when it’s not filtered through cracked teeth and bloody gums. I need to know what my joints feel like when the swelling becomes little more than a half remembered dream. I have to know what my scars look like touched by the sun or by rain or by frost. When I come home, I’ll bring you orange blossoms and lambskin and the first song I learned.
Thank you for pushing me to see what the sky looks like when I’m in it.
Call me back when you get this.
I love you.
Maz Hedgehog is a Black British spoken word poet and performer who’s recently turned her hand to the page. Her work often explores power and agency through fantasy and surrealism and she is heavily inspired by the fairy and folk tales she heard growing up. She has been published in Ruru Reads and Djed Press and her debut chapbook will be released next year as part of the Superbia Chapbook Series.