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Li, Bridget, attention


Bridget Li
Age: 16, Grade: 11

School Name: Hunter College High School, New York, NY
Educator: Caitlin Donovan

Category: Poetry


when I was six, I wore a pineapple skirt every day
to the neighborhood park, I know it had exactly 3 layers,
frills and spandex shorts underneath, I know it was
bright-orange yellow and itchy only on the left side, 
every day we played tag until sunset, the shouts of the old men and 
the clink of chess in the corner and the drips of the half-dead sprinklers
filled our steps with bounce, the scabs from last 
week are still greasy from neosporin, my ankles are raw from
running, the moles on my neck bared, sun beating down,
baby hairs stick to my forehead.

elevator encounters, subway stations and
apartment buildings, “you have a beautiful daughter,” 
shiny oxfords or asics sneakers, smell metallic and
warm and, they bend down and
coffee breath is so hot on my skin, yellowed nails raking
across my shoulder, “have a good one,” 
you too.

I roll the yellow waistband down, crevices of my hips jutting, 
the frills, with their watercolor pineapples, garish colors and
popsicle stains, swish on bare skin, the tag leaves red
marks on the triangle of my lower back, I run my hands over
the moles on my neck, the back of my thigh,
flesh, soft and supple, molding to 
my touch, warmth and neon dances on 
my eyelids, the smell of stale urine in the bathroom
shoots up my throat, the elevator doors open — the summer heat makes me waver, I kneel under 
the bath faucet until my fingers turn purple, the flies outside buzzing,
hit the window, over and over, I scrape my finger over the
broken tiles until the
water turns pink. 
in hindsight, maybe I should have been more grateful, because
now no one but the drunk men on grand street notice, the moon peers
over my shoulder when I unzip my jacket, 
 I keep thousands
of calories hidden in dresser drawers, glint of foil under layers of
wool, fat from my chest spills over, shoulder blades barely peeking, 
stomach snug on waistbands,

I don’t want to be seen, I think, but the swinging charm on my necklace 
begs to differ, slipping between fabric and skin and cleavage, mascara makes 
my eyes itch but I wear it anyway, hypocritical, 

I wish someone would 
look at me, days of caffeine pills and apple cider vinegar burn
my chest, — love me, don’t touch me- love
me, please, I

can’t tell if i want to be 
disgusted or revered.