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Instructions for Broken Girls

by Anna Banerjee


Step 1: Gather the parts.
This is not an easy task. You know
that there is history in your bones, 
but not the stories that have been built
into your DNA, not the homes
that have been constructed and wrecked
in your name, not the women who have loved
and the women who have died to build a legacy
for an unborn girl.

Step 2: Build the framework
A mosaic of skeletal systems comes out of the work
of generations. Your body is not hollow:
composed of bullet fragments and heartland soil,
each movement spans a lifetime, a dynasty. Your tendons
tie you to places and times you’ve never known. When you
broke your wrist at thirteen, you first severed your ties
to a poet from thirteenth century Arabia, and each time
you watch yourself bleed, she slips further away.

Step 3: Construct the bearings.
Tiptoe through your bedroom, around books
and underwear: someday, you’ll walk on solid ground
but today is not that day. You were born unbalanced:
when you learned to write, you wrote right-to-left
and backwards but never quite learned how to fix it.
You’ve been stuck thinking in the wrong direction
for eighteen years with no end in sight — except
when balanced by the wristband wrapped up on your right hand.

Step 4: Reassemble yourself.
When you shower, hair falls from your shoulders in ugly clumps
and as it dances around the mildewed drain, you wonder
if you are decomposing or breathing. But this is life. 
Your sadness is not your own; it belongs to she who lived and loved
and left you alone, with your newfound boredom,
to experience it in her stead. Take ownership of that which
you cannot claim and cry her tears. 
This is life.

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