Cocoon Hardening and Softening

by Malisa Garlieb

We’re walking home from Woolworth’s

when the man winks at me

and mom says flatly

she’s fourteen.


Entering eighth grade at six feet

my body cannot hide me.

So I slouch, wear drab

and stop talking altogether.

The sullen silence wears my neck

like nubby silk

torn from a sari and knotted.

My stutter—dear foe—

gave too much away.


Now stifled syllables calcify

as little stones in my stomach.

Each holding a word

that jumbles as I jump

into a poem

that reveals me once again.

Reprinted by permission from Handing Out Apples in Eden, by Malisa Garlieb, copyright 2014 (Wind Ridge Books of VT, 2014.)