Photograph of My Mother - Jessica Tuakeu

There’s a girl I’ll never know, barely old enough to make her own bed
She’s captured in a square of muted summer colours
That brilliant, soft, early 60’s blue that feels like a hug when you’re looking at it
The mixed pale pea green and sun bleached blonde of wild grass
And then the more lustrous green of sprouts,
Flattened before they had a chance to grow
Much like her

She sits slightly left of center
Most of her body covered in a puffy, light cotton tie up shirt
the supposed red and white pattern looking more pink with the light on it
Her hands are hidden in the pockets, but her little legs stretch in front of her
The light reflecting so smoothly off them that they are a gradient of dark sand and white
And then her toes, pointed forward in a way that speaks of ease and contentment

Such lightness and softness that I have never known from the present you
The hard shell of skin that holds the woman I know together makes me think
That this young version of her isn’t real,
As if, were I physically able to peel back the visible layer
I would find that she is filled with cotton balls and jelly beans

But her face is alive and it paints her as a thing of nature
The short curls of her hair, barely long enough to be anything but wisps
Slightly wet
Her eyes, looking at something beyond the frame, have been reduced to dark slants
the balls of her cheeks pushed up
by a mouth, open wide in a casual, candid laugh

The shadows barely touch her
Unlike the way the shadows cling to her now
Swarming her body like wasps circling their nest
They are ghosts of unwanted hands
Caresses that froze her skin
Explosive, supernatural hearing
that turns the usual silence into 
a roaring of dripping taps and ticking clocks and swaying curtains
and a thunderous pounding of blood punching through veins
They are whispers of terror, insecurity, self hate
You can’t do anything, they say
It’s embarrassing. And who would believe you anyway.
They say, You’re disgusting

But the girl frozen in the 60’s has a little pebble of a nose
And tiny apple shoulders
I want to jump through the sheen of ink
And travel years back
I want to reverse our maternal roles
And be the hard shell so her skin can remain a smooth, sandy gradient
I want to cut off hands before they became unwanted touches
I want to shout out the shadows with glittering words
You can do anything, I would tell her
I believe in you
I would tell her, You’re perfect

Contributor's Note

Jessica is an aspiring artist. She appreciates art in all forms but she tends towards film, drawing, making music and writing. She is inspired by everything, but more so by the things that confuse her. Jessica is currently working towards completing a Bachelor of Media and Creative Technologies.


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