lily of the valley

by Gabrielle J., 17

I was born to a mother who had no hand to grip,

no one to remind her to breathe,

or bring her ice chips when the contractions got worse.

I was born under flickering fluorescent lights,

in a hospital where the televisions were blasted

in a futile attempt to drown out the cacophony of the city.

I was born a consequence of deceit,

a byproduct of sweet talk and alcohol,

the sole remnants of a boy and the promises he made. 

I was born into a long line of suffering.

I was destined to inherit my mother’s fate,

for she too was born under flickering fluorescent lights,

to a mother who had no hand to grip,

no one to remind her to breathe,

or bring her ice chips when the contractions got worse.

But my mother grit her teeth,

grasped the cold bar on the side of the bed,

dug her fingernails into her calloused palms,

and screamed.

She screamed at the city that tried to intimidate her with its roar.

She screamed at the boy she thought she loved.

She screamed into the face of destiny and watched its wry smile fade.

She named me Lily,

for lilies of the valley represent purity, sweetness, and chastity.

They allure greedy eyes, salivating mouths, predatorial minds,

but their blossoms are poisonous.

Under their beauty is a ferociousness,

and a guttural yearn to survive.

Bradley Beach, New Jersey