This I Believe

Sharon - Lakeville, Connecticut
Entered on December 12, 2007
Age Group: 65+

For almost nine years, I have worked as a volunteer at a residential treatment facility for female juvenile offenders in Litchfield, CT. These young women have revolutionalized my life. I will tell you why.


I believe in the daughter I never had

how she multiplies in front of me every Tuesday

in black and brown and caramel tan

I believe in her arms, the arms she shows me

again and again, crisscrossed with razor cuts

why I say, why and she says because when the blood

comes out the pain comes out, and I believe her

and I believe in her crazy hair, woven into braids

shaved off completely or just wild black stuff sticking up

I believe in her pen moving across the paper

screaming her life out in ink, her story of a mother

who sold her for drugs at five, mother and dealer

holding her down and I believe in the incredible

indelible damage done to her and I believe

that she and the girl who always sits next to her

(one day I bent down to pick up a dropped pen

saw their feet touching under the table) I believe

they love each other– what passes for love

in their ripped up hearts– but I also believe

that it will be over soon and badly and I will see

wretchedness on their faces and they won’t sit

together any more –I believe in her hugs

and how those hugs reach the huge holes

in both our hearts–I believe in her skin-tight jeans

uptowns and tank tops , her quilted black jacket

with fur-trimmed hood, the bright hoop earrings

with her name–Shanique, Bianca, Xiomara, Tarray,

Chimere, Melanie, Michelle, Shamecca, La Shanna–

spelled out in twisted fake gold– I believe in her

walking down the hill to meet me, in her walking away

and forgetting me–I believe in her short attention span,

her desire for chocolate chip cookies (with macadamia

nuts, please, miss), m&ms, pizza and chips–I believe

in her hope, a thing with feathers as Emily said

feathers that beat hard inside sometimes and flutter

sometimes and I believe in her yearning for kisses

for drugs, for sex and new clothes and I believe

in her triumphs –beating heroin for three months

a prize-winning poem–her mother calling–I believe

in her excitement at a pregnancy at fifteen–now

I’ll have a child who will give me the love I never had

and I believe in her despair and confusion when it finally

sinks in that giving birth is going to hurt and give her

stretch marks, that diapers and formula cost money,

that she can never go back–and I believe in her hopelessness,

though now that I have told you that I believe that I wanted

to finish with hope, her hope, my hope,

but I believe that I can’t