Love is the feeling that autumn leaves
are swirling through your bloodstream.
Your heart waves in your chest
like a rainbow tree
or a rainbow flag
in the wind.
The first girl I wanted to kiss
was in second grade.
I stood behind the swing set
to watch her without being seen.
Her nose had the curve
of a gust of wind.
Her freckles spread all the way
into her eyes.
She was a princess.
I didn’t have
all the labels I needed
so when I told mom
how I felt,
the words came out
like torn up confetti.
The wrinkles in her forehead doubled over. She used the word
“weird”, then “socially inappropriate”;
I had already started social skills training.
I had already begun to be the weird girl.
When she said
not to let the other kids know I felt that way
was when I knew it was dirty,
so dirty it had to be kept secret.
After that, when the feeling would
start to fill up my stomach the way
tears fill up your eyes, I would
pinch my arm, hard,
to get this dangerous thing to go away.
It was six years
before I claimed the word “lesbian”.
The word is powerful like a scream:
when I say it, people back away.
You don’t need labels, they say,
but I do. I need words
to stand on. Besides, I did have labels before,
but I wear this new one
more like a golden locket
and less like a scarlet A.