Decade and Grown | The New Engagement

Decade and Grown

By Germ Lynn
Decade and Grown story art


I’m 19 and on a bad trip

I’m 20 and have a bad habit

I’m 21 and I kicked

I’m 22 and they try to pin me down by my limp wrists

I’m 23 and I have learned to suck the air out of the room

just like when I got sucked into the ceiling fan when he fucked me

just like a rogue balloon bore into the sky

just like how my pupils tightened up behind my glasses

following its course, eclipsing the sun, a speck of red

just like how I lose everything in the black hole of my purse

can I borrow a hair tie or nevermind, I’ll just shave my head


I’m 24 and a little tired of growing smaller

a little tired of watching the blades of a ceiling fan go by until it’s over

tired of throwing up, tired of running cold

tired of overhead lighting and tired of tight clothes

but the thing is I can’t sleep

the thing is I’m on these low-grade antihistamines

the thing is I have regularly scheduled ECT

so I don’t remember anything


I’m 25 and one giant oversized sweater

I’m one tired joke about 5150s and 420, baby

I am numbers, I’m in line at the deli

I’m serving half smiles and soft landings

I’m inviting you over tonight

I’m kicking you out because it’s too much for me

I’m thanking you

I’m apologizing

I’m making another cosmic joke

I’m texting you right now


I’m 26 and I’m no fun at parties but I smile more readily in the checkout line

I’m learning to make pesto and chimichurri

I’m madly in love with the color green

which has a stark melody like Satie

which has botanical notes like gin

which has the faint lilt of my mother’s voice

remarking on the rain


Did I tell you I stopped drinking?

Did I show you this meme?


I’m 27 and I’ve felt the kelp licking my legs

I’ve felt the waves wash up on the rocks inside me and smooth them out

I’ve started to make myself come thinking about it


I’m 28 and I’m thinking about nursing school

I’m talking to mom again

who smiles more readily in the checkout line

whose pain is so similar to mine that she couldn’t look at me

is so similar to mine that she was too nervous to hold me as a baby

who smells like cigarettes?

Have you been smoking, Jenny?

Have you lost weight?


I’m 29 and I am the inner part of an oyster shell

pale rainbow, smiling up at me,

mother of pearl catching the light

all smashed up and ground down

and sold to me


I hate this city


I’m diatomaceous earth on the windowsill for the ants

I am dragging their tiny bodies over the shells

I am cutting to ribbons

anything that seeks to destroy me in my sleep




they call me by different names

when I see a child falling

and I see they start to cry

I wonder if they are crying

out of pain or shame


because it seems

that we learn very young

to not make silly mistakes

that we could have done a better job

if we were paying attention

and often, when I see parents scoop kids up

and say "you're alright"

I wonder what they mean


can you tell me what they mean

by the phrase refrigerator mother?


They seem to say, you're not hurt so no crying

(like a utilitarian)

They seem to say, it happens all the time kid

(like a nihilist)

They seem to say, walk it off

(like an existentialist)

I actually don't know what they mean

But do they mean, I love you, like a goddess?


Can you tell me if I am a cowbird?

A brood parasite with a beautiful song

watching the babies fall from the nest


in these fraught moments, I am just an observer

I'm stealing away behind my shades

I'm averting my gaze if I seem too interested

I am one big joke about a ticking clock

and ultimately a stranger


But I imagine myself a lifegiver

And find myself cooing 

mouthing strange spells of healing

Potions dripping from my brow

My heart pumping milk

My tongue thrush with affections

(like songbird)


I wonder if a child falling and learning

how these things play out

is just a part of growing up

(like storyteller)


But now, I am grown up

and I am lost boy hiding behind hipster sunglasses

I am so interested in your interior

but (like vampire), I must be invited in

I am always clutching my pearls (like oyster)

I am always uncomfortable with touch (like oil slick)

I am asking to be left alone (like abortionist)

I am asking for my turn to make dinner (like communist)

I am asking to be held in a new way (like little mermaid)


I am asking to never cry from shame

I am asking to be loved

and not told what to feel when I fall (like it was)


But they call me by different names


Can you tell me what they mean

by the phrase biological woman?

Can you tell me my future by drawing chalk lines around this body?

Can you see past all this texture and color?

If I will be divine nurturer

if only I freeze my eggs?

Can you tell me what’s wrong with me?


I will ask you if you’re my mom

and you say yes alright?


Are you my mother?



Germ Lynn is a cellist, freelance writer, and professional giver living in Brooklyn, pursuing a life after death by sowing seeds, recording sounds, and doing mostly good things. Published under a deadname, their work is lost or at least, remains to be seen.

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