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“All I Learned” by Sydnee Smith

We only met once in the California Desert.

We were sweaty and naive with newfound freedoms,

as we cursed each others names,

running around the house, panting

like dogs in the heat. Stealing

each others phones to look at secrets.

You taught me California held evil, in the forms of us.

As you dragged me to my knees, forced me

to repent for the sins of my upbringing,

how it was so much different than yours.

We stood waist deep that night

in water you said was holy, like I

somehow needed to be clean. But now,

I wonder how much you actually prayed and

if those laps in the pool were rebirths for you.

If you still believe in God.

If you still believe hes watching out for you,

then why did the doctors not know in time.

I wonder if they’ll spread your ashes in the ocean

and if they’ll sweep back in the wind,

clinging to your mother’s skin for dear life.

If you’ll still go to heaven,

meet the man who grew you out of rib and faulty cells.

I wonder if your mother will invite me to your funeral,

forgive my father for curse words and public education.

If they’ll ever forgive me,

for my cells have not failed me yet.

But we will all be sisters without brothers now,

because they’ve all been taken from us,

like a fracture in our family history.

So please tell me, how do I pray

when I don’t even know if he’ll listen.

Sydnee Smith is a local writer from Sumner, Washington. She will be attending Western Washington University in the fall of 2018 to study english education. Her past work has been featured in SLAM.