for teens, by teens

Canvas Teen Literary Journal is published quarterly in print, ebook, web, video, and audio formats.


Emma Camp

On the day I turned sixteen, my mother said
that she was losing me too quickly. Too many times
in the pressed-down heat of her car had I watched
her drive, watched her fragile fingers grasping
at the wheel, her face set square against
the highway—taunt, yet brittle from battle scars, quick
but too hewn off by motherhood.

They say that sons crack but daughters
dissolve, that we wear away like sandstone, that the crumbling
of our bones is hereditary. The snapping of joints
has become commonplace—women’s fingers
are always bending under the stress of lead wedding
rings, always threatening to shatter from the steady
stream of toxins.

My mother was thirty when the doctors
told her she had osteoporosis—genetics, they
said. Fluke of thin-legged European-ness. The price
we pay for privilege. Calcium may be mayflower
white, but that doesn’t mean it wants to fortify
our epiphyses. Mineral strength finds no home
in these bones, we are all destined to be spongy
and brow-beaten by menopause. When I
am home, she puts milk in my glass during
dinner, thick and yellow-white. She says it will keep
me from turning brittle so quickly. Her knuckles
are swollen and old, fingers sharp and clean from decades
of scouring her skin too thin for blood.

I am already afraid of breaking. I feel myself creak
in the morning, popping joints, stretching
muscles, think how easy it would be to splinter. In
habit, I touch my ribs, run fingers along the numbly
rigid skeleton hidden beneath carefully constructed layers
of flesh. Instability blossoms in the curve of my hipbones. I
wonder how long before they are too hollow to keep
themselves upright.

I’m waiting for corrosion. My mother and her glass
blown bones are cut with deficiency, she’s been sacrificing
vitamins for years, let herselfturn porous with the bronze edge
of maternal instinct. This crumbing is passed down through
chromosomes, woven into the tight translucent thread
of our womanhood. It is only a matter of time before we
are entrenched in the wraths of our unrepentant
daughters, before our frames fade away like apple
skin. We learn by example, deprive nutrients until our bones rattle
with fragility. We learn to let ourselves fissure. We learn
to be consumed by sacrifice. We learn to fade away until we
are nothing but the hollows of our children’s
sins, the ghosts of broken bones.

Emma Camp is a sixteen-year-old Shakespeare buff who attends the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She has a strong affinity for Alexander Hamilton and musical theatre. You can often find her waxing poetic about American History, or annoying her friends with an in-depth synopsis of whatever Shakespeare play she's become obsessed with. In her free time, she writes a column on intersectional feminism for her school's online magazine. Her previous awards include a National Gold Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards as well as several other regional awards in that contest.

© Canvas Literary Journal 2016
Writers & Books
Rochester, NY