Wisdom by Catherine Valdez

You taught me how to look down
upon children.

Folding your hands,
you refused to teach me
how to break a length
of thread with my teeth,
or how to hold back tears
when I pricked my fingers
on needle tips.

You were the one that taught
me not to run barefoot
through grass, and instead
taught me to steady
a coffee kettle between my palms
and move the bitter stream
in circular patterns.

You taught me that books
had no power besides
the ability to kindle.

From you I failed to learn
how to handle the fire
in a stranger’s hands, how
to mend a burn before it began to stain the skin.

You forbade me from planting saplings.
It was you that told
my five year old self: “if you
plant a seed in china, the tree
will grow to shatter the cup.”

2014, 3rd Place Poetry Winner