They say that autumn is the season of dying,
but I am becoming.
Like leaves, I am shedding the parts of me
that no longer have use.
I spent springtime making myself small so you would love me,
and all summer I withered under the heat of your relentless sun.
I have shed you like skin I had long ago outgrown,
and now I am blossoming, expanding,
growing into the person I have always wanted to be.
It took your pruning, your picking, your ruthless whittling,
for me to stand up, take my own hand,
walk beside myself, look my future in the eye.
If you thought that you could knock me down,
then you never knew me at all.
I will weather your storm,
my roots are seeded deep.
I am my mother’s daughter,
I have her strength in my limbs.
I am a warrior woman
with gilded armor and swords of steel.
I am a goddess,
I have fire in my veins and laughter in my heart.
I am the sphinx,
and I carry in me the wisdom of my mother and her mother,
and all the women who came before us.
I am a woman,
and you are just a man.
What made you think you ever stood a chance?
If autumn is my season of becoming,
then winter will be my season of rebirth.
Come springtime, you won’t even recognize me.
SPELLED WITH SOFTNESS
You taught me love.
You taught me love is sharp edges
is hands wrapped round my throat
is teeth bitten into skin
is cold eyes
fingertips leaving bruises
orders to be obeyed
and ridicule when I misunderstood you.
You taught me that love is for me to give
but not for me to get.
Your love was not patient.
Your love was not kind.
Your love came with conditions
and could be snatched away if I dared to point them out.
I do not know how to be soft anymore
and that is all your fault.
New lovers will find teeth in my kisses
claws instead of fingers
shards of glass in place of feather beds.
I will not be a safe place to land
I will be siren songs sung from rocky shores.
My love is now a double-edged sword
I am still learning how to wield.
My love could have been a lot of things
but instead it was learning to apologize for my own hurt
it was sleeping with spiders
it was keeping score.
I am relearning how to be gentle
relearning that love is not a game of throwing knives
is not a prize to be won.
You were supposed to be my teacher
but you provided me with a shoddy foundation.
I am relearning the basics,
something you were never taught—
apparently ‘love’ is spelled with softness.
I am sick and tired
of scrubbing myself raw
only to find you beneath all the layers of my skin
I have picked you out from beneath my fingernails,
I have exhaled you from my lungs,
I have found bits and pieces of you stuck between my teeth,
and I have rinsed myself clean more times than I care to count.
I have cut you out of my hair,
I have spit up all your lies,
and I have said your name again and again
until it should have lost all meaning.
I have tried to drown the taste of you,
washed my mouth out with splashes of vodka and rum,
but you still linger on my tongue,
a bitter taste I cannot swallow,
and you come spewing out like the rest of it,
putrid and poisoned.
Like a hangover,
you have long outstayed your welcome.
You are the ghost in this ramshackle body I call home,
you are haunting my hallways
and walking through walls I’d erected to keep you out.
You are not welcome here,
I thought you should know.
I am evicting you,
your time is up.
I will burn this house down if I have to,
turn over every stone and sift through all the rubble.
I will be the only thing left standing,
ghosts cannot haunt a structure that no longer exists.
Your ghost belonged to the girl I once was,
but when she is gone, there will be no place left for you to haunt.
We are only haunted by the ghosts we choose,
and I stopped choosing you a long time ago.
Elizabeth Thomas is a twenty-three year old writer from Colorado. She is previously unpublished but has been writing on and off for as long as she can remember. Other than writing, Beth’s favorite past times include the laboratory science job she loves, watching Netflix, and crying over cute corgi videos on the internet.