Juvenescence by Jennifer Lynn Krohn

My mother finds me still in bed, curled into a ball. She strokes my hair and says, “Soon, you’ll be a grown up.”

I only groan.

“It’s not so bad,” she says. Since my mother does not recognize her own luck, she is confounded by her children’s terror. Her childhood emerged from her mouth as flock of barn swallows, which then nested in the eaves of her house. Throughout the tumult of high school, she could always return home and watch her childhood swoop through the air.

Even though we spend a month each year caring for my father’s family orchard, mother fails to grasp their affliction; their childhoods rooted them to the ground, stiff bark gagging them. Only after stifling silent years would the lucky ones emerge, fully adult and behind in school. The unlucky remained, growing tart fruit.

My aunt’s childhood swelled in her right shoulder. For years it refused to burst through the skin. Finally, she took a knife to her flesh and cut out her double. The only way we can tell the difference between the two is that my aunt still walks with a stoop.

Then there was the boy from school. In the middle of an assembly, he howled. Something clawed and furred burst from his skin. The animal had to be put down. All that was left of the boy was quickly mopped up.  

“It feels like the end of the world,” my mother says, “but it isn’t.”

I say nothing and nod when she asks if I want hot cocoa. As soon as she leaves, I roll out of bed. Most of my friends have already gone through the change. Amy said that she’s glad she puked the worms out, but Keira talks about how ugly she is now that her field of daffodils has wilted away. I stare in the mirror and lift my shirt to examine my stomach’s new shape.

Downstairs, my sister is already in the kitchen. Her skin covered with scars. Her childhood was a thorny briar that erupted from her face and chest. For years, she spent each night lopping off thorns.

Mother places a mug in front of me. “There is no need to be frightened.”

My sister rolls her eyes and says, “It sucks. It hurts. It’s also a relief. Imagine not being able to see what you once were. That’d be awful. A person can’t move forward if they can’t see who they were.”

I sip my cocoa even though it burns my tongue. I haven’t told them that a week ago I woke to a slit in my stomach. I searched the velvety void with my hand but found nothing. The child-self that was within me was gone. I never caught a glimpse.

Jennifer Lynn Krohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she currently lives with her husband. She earned her MFA from the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English at Central New Mexico Community College. She has published work in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Necessary Fiction, Storm Cellar, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Gingerbread House Literary Magazine among others.

What Jennifer’s ideal vision of a post-revolutionary world? “My ideal post-revolutionary world would be a compassionate one. When someone needed help the word ‘deserves’ would not be uttered. The idea that someone earns access to healthcare, food, or housing would be an alien concept.”

Art — Aleksandra Apocalisse was born in the USSR, from which her family fled when she was only 6 years old. She spent most of my childhood and young adulthood in Brooklyn, New York until she moved to Portland, Oregon in 2015. There, she is living the dream; spending the days outside with my dog, playing in the dirt, hanging out with plants, and expressing her dreams and innermost musings through art. She also loves animals, reading, learning about nature, getting lost in music, and traveling to tropical jungles.

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