“a chance encounter with a classmate from grade school”
by Laila Sokera Henderson
Hello old friend,
It is so so funny how life settles.
I see that you barely recognize me
like an auntie you met as a newborn.
Back when we would collide from time to time due to proximity,
I was a bold dreamer.
I thought I could smile at anything life threw at me
You knew the me that blocked sticks and stones and pots and pans,
but then came the knives and the shards of glass
and the boulders that knocked out all of my teeth.
My gums bled something torrential.
In fact, it didn’t stop after that.
I unraveled very quickly.
My cheeks caved in like a rotting Jack-o-Lantern,
hollow and decaying.
My lips drooped into a godlike frown,
so omnipresent that I forgot all the things that struck me with sorrow.
My blue became a blur.
My breasts and stomach deflated like old birthday balloons
screaming silently as they released helium,
my fat reserves depleted from sustaining and sustaining.
My smooth, bright skin began to peel like paint on a wet, dirty wall.
It fell like an opening scroll.
What could I do?
With bare flesh out for everyone to see?
White meat staring me in the mirror?
I had to shell. Cover up.
I murdered my dreams and aspirations in steaming hot, hot blood.
I used the remnants to sew a new complexion.
No need to hide the way you turn up your nose!
I know that I reek of shame and survival but
I know that I am doing my best every day.
I know that I can celebrate every time that the pain does not swallow me whole.
And how are you, old friend?
How are you, stranger?
You say that you are doing well?
That is good to hear.
Ain’t it so so so funny,
How life settles?
Laila Sokera Henderson is an American poet, writer and actor of Nigerian descent. She is currently a university student, also working as a teaching artist in Atlanta, GA. She has served as one of Atlanta’s Youth Poet Laureate Ambassadors since 2017, and has competed in the international poetry slam competition Brave New Voices. She is currently working on releasing a collection of poems. Stay up to date with her @LailaSokera
Listen to Laila Sokera Henderson's SOREN LIT podcast interview: