When thinking about this prompt, I thought of several routes I could take it in. I could mention physical restraints, whether it’s silk rope, metal cuffs, cutesy fuzzy handcuffs used playfully, a hand wrapped around my wrists securing them together.
That’s not the direction I wanted to go in.
I’m an understudy to a star of the silver screen,
waiting in the wings for my chance to go on.
If she sputters or falters or stammers,
my chance is right there in the wings.
(I didn’t know this, but by not being the star of my own life,
I was tightening the cuffs I had forgotten I was wearing.)
Any time I said, “I can’t” or “Oh no, I shouldn’t”,
the restraints bit into my skin all the harder.
I never wanted to be perfect.
I was happy living in my mess,
until I saw what a perfect woman you wanted.
Then, I began to wear diamonds in my ears
and jeans without holes from climbing fences.
All the while, my cuffs tightened around me.
I went back to school, got the grades,
took the tests, learned to research
and write a grant.
I did what I was told and smiled
when they took my picture for the yearbook.
(But no one heard the sound of the shackles
gripping me, pinning me tightly to the normal life
I should lead.)
I used to listen to my music too loud
and flip my middle finger high
when the sorority girls complained.
Now, I cower at my memories and cry from nightmares.
I never thought I’d be broken,
but what I didn’t realize was I was damaged from the start.
When someone sees the potential,
they offer me a key,
a pinhole-sized bit of sky.
I might be a phoenix,
but it is impossible to fly
with your wings clipped
(your dreams cuffed).
Teach me where you’ve hidden the key.
I want to explore the world.