Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Cherry Blossoms; Growing Pains
Cherry Blossoms

 

I grew up in the shadow of a church

and a flowering cherry tree. 

 

Thick blossoms weighed down

its branches in springtime, 

the limbs bent in mock reverence.

 

The church was too far away to see,

but the cherry tree still knew

to bow when it felt most beautiful.

 

Pride was a sin, and I knew that

like I knew the rosary—like I knew to swallow 

back my rage when dad welcomed me home 

 

from my first semester at school by declaring,

There is this rape epidemic on college campuses.

Women lie when they have regrets.

 

During spring rainstorms, I watched

the cherry tree shake and thrash its fuchsia fists

with an anger that I understood.

 

There was another epidemic that he didn’t mention.

Those priests became a household whisper

among tight-lipped Irish families, huddled

behind open pages of the Boston Globe.

 

He was an altar boy, my aunt said,

for one of those priests. It could explain

why he is so troubled.

 

The rains eventually stripped the blossoms

from their branches. They fell in heaps 

and stuck to the bottom of our shoes.

 

We tracked them into the house

and between the quiet church pews.

Growing Pains

 

My brother used to say,

My tummy feels funny,

which I think meant,

My stomach is upset,

which I think meant,

I am hurting somehow.

 

It is hard to be a child

with emotions too big 

to express and a body 

too small to house them.

 

My brother used to pull 

the hairs out of his head,

sprouting bald patches 

like the tops of mushrooms.

 

The seams on socks upset him, 

so my dad cut them off. At first, 

I thought the act was a kind gesture,

until I saw the shredded remains

in the trash.

 

This was the only lesson

my siblings and I needed. 

 

We practiced making ourselves 

small, packing up our pain

like hand-me-down clothes 

that had never fit right. 

 

If you teach children

not to take up space,

then what will happen

once they realize

they must grow?

Mollie O’Leary received a B.A. from Kenyon College where she studied English and Philosophy. Her poems have been previously published in Persimmons Magazine and HIKA Magazine. She grew up in Massachusetts and is currently an English teacher in Texas.

"This fall I decided to start working on a chapbook that was thematically centered on growing up. Throughout last year, having recently graduated from college, I struggled to find the inspiration or direction to write, so I thought
challenging myself to write on one topic would give me a sense of structure that I lacked. Since I am moving into

a phase of my life that you might tenuously call "adulthood", I found myself turning back to my past and the
experiences that have shaped me. These poems are a result of this process."