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Poulin, Christina, Athena

POULIN, CHRISTINA

Christina Poulin
Age: 15, Grade: 11

School Name: High School Of American Studies-Lehman, Bronx, NY
Educator: Natalie Cook

Category: Poetry

Athena

Curled at the base of the skull,
fitting perfectly 
in the hollow space just above the spine.

Plenty of room to grow.

Your bones form a tiny cage, a crib
with bars of tendons
and pillows of tissue.

When she is still, you walk the world
as though nothing is wrong.
She sleeps unnoticed,

though restless.

She introduces herself one evening at ten.

Twisting onto her side,
spiteful,
trapped beneath a suffocating layer 
of skin.

Even the smallest movements
are tender against your skull,
and the way she writhes,
fighting to get out,
snatches the air from your 
beaten lungs.
Pain presses like a thumb
in the raw nerves of your brain, pounding
from the backs of your eyes, threatening
to pop them right from their sockets

until you place two fingers on the back of your head,
willing her to be silent.

She goes to sleep,
a small fist clenched
in defiance

but only grows.

Soon there is a bulge in your skin,
protruding where her little feet
threaten to poke through the flesh.
You massage the bump.
When she kicks
you away, it pulls the skin of your face
taut.

You look like a mask.

When she squirms,
a deep ache explodes in your head.
She has stolen your appetite,
and yet you eat, if only 
to appease her.
But she shamelessly devours 
whatever 
you swallow.

Your skin sags
off spindly bones.
She grows fatter.

Soon she is too heavy
for you to stand upright.
If you try,
her weight snaps your head backwards,
thrusting your face into the darkened sky,
as though you are begging for any sign 
of divine intervention.
Even if you were,
there is none.

Instead you take to the bed.
You lie immobile, curled in the fetal position,
a mirror image of her fleshy red body.

A headache starts
to pound, each drumbeat solemn,
hollow with pain 
and desperation.
The battle begins,
a fight for her liberation
at your peril.

The beats come faster.

And when your vision goes dark
with the echoes
of every pulsation in the rhythm,
when your ears are clogged
with your own ragged screams,
your hairless scalp splits apart— 
the very fabric of your being
undoing itself.

From the crimson depths,
a small, gloating hand 

reaches forth.