Stephanie Paterik

In lovely locales with rotten names

like Dog Town Lake, Dad would find

two sturdy trees, no saplings except for me

and my brother. The pines were enormous

emeralds then, the birds fine silver piccolos,

things we couldn’t afford. We were rich

with propane, card games, hash browns,

hammocks strung. I’d fall backward

without testing one, swing golden legs

inside, roll the ends around me like a doily

hugging an éclair. I pulled that lacy

cocoon so tight, flesh poked through

like raised diamonds, and counted

the boys I had not kissed in these woods

of violet wildflowers. Mom said those grew

wherever they wanted, no man or woman

could stop them. I left the petals

alone, twirled sticky pine needles

around my pinky until it turned

purple, swollen. I opened my eyes

and dumped myself from the hammock,

a heap of diamonds and desire.

Stephanie Paterik is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Parade, PHOENIX, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other publications. She volunteers at 826NYC, a writing center for kids in Brooklyn. And she'll begin an MFA in poetry at The New School this fall. She lives in Manhattan with a supportive husband, a struggling windowsill garden, a trusty Canon camera and a healthy case of wanderlust, which she blogs about at .

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