for those who misstep


I want to show my little girl all the places I failed
in this peculiar, good-sad world
The well-intentioned cardboard prisons with bottle-cap water dishes
Here, I made nests of hand-picked leaves
and lovingly I killed many ladybirds

I will tell her I think her warm, good and wonderful
and this, of course, makes her no less capable
of causing deep and great hurt
There are painfully white classrooms
where I punished young and precious women
for being more Indian than I ever let myself be

If she loves the fairytales we read before bed
that divide neatly
the wolf and the girl
under running faucet, I’ll show her clumsy palms
still sticky from the people I’ve mishandled
When she sees the promises of safekeeping I made them
still burning acrid on my tongue
Perhaps, she will understand then
All girls have wolf teeth

I will tell her of the two very different roles she will play
over and over in other people’s stories
I will tell her
This is unavoidable
Let your petal heart touch many, as softly as it can
but never crumple under the weight
when you fail some of them, as inevitably you will

When you do misstep, linger
Feel how it aches in your lungs
When you do misstep
remember each breath is opportunity still
to be something more than the pain you caused
There is so little in this world you cannot come back from

I will tell her, fail big
Find places you’ll take your own daughter some day
As long as you return twice as large
in the knowledge of your own shortcomings
some compassion for your fellow sinners
Remember there are no bad people
Just those like you and I; always trying, sometimes lacking
consistently glorious.


Amanda Joshua has writing published or forthcoming in Starling, Sweet Mammalian, Kate Magazine and Poetry New Zealand. In her spare time, she likes to read and contemplate dropping her law degree.