a poem by Dilen Marra, ’22

I stomp down the path
I watch other people tiptoe down the path
They look like swans swimming down the river that I once fished at
I move with them
We are salmon swimming up the stream of life
I’ve been stomping for an eternity
For if you stomp down the path, one day feels like an eternity
A mallet is slamming into my feet and my feet turn into red balloons
The red balloon that is attached to the child for dear life by nothing but a string
I cannot let myself slow down, for the darkness will snatch me
The words of the darkness dance through my ear, lightly tapping my eardrum
Its Arctic breathe brushes my neck, transporting chills down my spine
I can feel its stick like fingers run through my corn colored hair
However, as a farmer know, all crops rot one day
Those who tip toe are unaware of the darkness and the darkness is unaware of them
The darkness cannot hear their tip toes, but the darkness can hear my stomps
It can sense the torment in my feet that no one else has
For it is a shark that can smell my blood oozing out of my corpse
Water fills my eyes, but the dam is not strong enough
A river begins to flow down my face
The water falls to the ground like rain, making a damp signature in the dirt
The signature now becomes yet another mark on the path that can guide the darkness to me
Unseen serpents wrap around my body, inserting its venom into my flesh
I belt out in agony as the pain worsens
I let out screams after screams, limping down the path in soreness
The others begin to pass me, for I am slowing down
I trip on the pain
My body falls and hits the ground
I clench my muscles, desperately reaching my arms out to drag myself forward
The sharp pebbles dig their teeth into my hands, seeking the attention that they hardly receive
Cold black blood trickles from my hands to the dirt
I am crawling, but not the way a baby crawls to its mom
My lungs squeeze out blood through my mouth, filling every crest in the dirt with blood
I suddenly feel a firm and rough grasp around my ankle
The chills from its icy grasp cools down my inflamed feet
I try to yank my foot out of its clutch, but it hammers its nails into my foot, for I am attached to it
I stop battling, knowing that this is the end
A new river from my eyes begins to flow and mixes with my blood
Are these happy tears?
I manage to turn my head toward the darkness, and I let out a broken tune from my damaged vocal chords, telling the darkness that it is over
The darkness takes hold of my whole empty body and lifts it off the ground
My head falls back, only letting me see the clouds
I stare at the clouds like I used to when I only knew how to tiptoe
The clouds give me a friendly smile, like I am an old friend who they haven’t seen in a while
My eyes catch the attention of a cloud the shape of an eagle, soaring through the sky
I reach my bony hand up to the sky, as if I could almost touch its presence
The eagle sends kissed my hand through the gentle wind
For a split second, I forgot that the darkness was lifting me up,
For I thought I was flying like an eagle with my own pair of wings
But, for some reason, I can still feel my own pair of wings
I turn my head toward the darkness and notice that I am bleeding all over it,
but the darkness doesn’t seem to mind
For the darkness already has dried blood stained into its flesh,
For the darkness is used to being bled on
My body stops screaming inside and the serpents no longer bite me
For an unfamiliar feeling flows through my body
It feels as if a light was turned on in the dark room inside of me
This is the feeling that all the tiptoes had, but I never seemed to have,
For it was just a myth to me
I thank the darkness, for it was the only thing that could create this glow inside of me
It continues to carry me the other direction, down the path
We pass by my footprints and my puddles of blood
As I see these pass, I realize that we are moving farther and farther down the path
I use my strength to turn around and wave goodbye to the tiptoers who continue to tiptoe down the path
I wave them goodbye and wish them good luck, but they don’t hear me,
For they never did hear me
No matter how loud I screamed, they could never hear my cries
But, right before I finish saying my goodbyes, one tiptoer turns around
For she heard me
Her eyes gaze at me with sadness and I notice that their feet have just begun to bleed