Naming Girls

by Matilda Houston-Brown

(they chose Lily
because lily white, fresh, light
like new bedsheets.)

Playing outside,
she came back mud christened,
dirt like a promised tattoo.
scraped off her with soap,
it still hums on the skin,
something that wouldn’t let go.

(they chose Bella
because beautiful lady,
hoped for wide eyed innocence)

Then she was two steps
in front, catching herself
on brambles, faster than them.
grown up tall, bloody,
and further ahead, bellowing red

(they chose Rose
because blissful, sweet simplicity,
like coming home)

or in classrooms,
on swings in the village park,
a cut open rose hip itch,
to be free, run away,
leave, breathe on windows
from the outside in.

we go, we go, we race

(if they catch us,
they don’t know our names)