Twelve Twelve Twelve

a.) When I was twelve, I lived
on the grounds of a mental asylum.
b). My Filipino mother was a psychiatrist,
so that meant we lived
in the doctor’s quarters—
one of the three big brick houses
that edged the institute.
c). My younger sister and I practiced Herkies—
our favorite cheerleading jumps—
off the patients’ bleachers near the softball field.
d). When I was twelve, I aced
the experiments
with celery and food coloring;
they let me skip a whole grade
and get right to The Dissections.
e). I secretly wished my supply
of grape Bubble Yum would never run out
but I couldn’t figure out how to blow bubbles
and snap the lavender gum like Sara could.
f). We sold gift wrap and crystals
for a junior high fund-raiser and my mom still asks
Where are all the crystals I bought?
Why don’t you display them in your house?
g). When I was twelve, I worried about
the darkening hair on my legs.
My mother bought me my first training bra—
no cup, just little triangle pieces stitched together—
and then a slice of New York-style cheesecake
to bring home.
h). Home.
i). When I was twelve, our house
always smelled of fried lumpia
or ginger.
j). We had zinnias
as wide as my outstretched hand
nodding at us in our garden.
k). My school had to create
a whole new bus stop
just for my sister and me,
and everyone stopped talking and stared
when we stepped onto the bus each morning,
smelling of grape gum and ginger roots.
l.) Just who are these girls?

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, "Twelve/Twelve/Twelve" from Lucky Fish. Copyright © 2011 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.  Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.
Source: Lucky Fish (Tupelo Press, 2011)
More Poems by Aimee Nezhukumatathil