An Old Woman Answers

Ask me my age 
and I’ll tell you to start
by counting the smile lines
creasing my face;
when that’s not enough,
the cracks in my heart—

sure, you can’t see them
but here in my chest
they ache like broken bones
for old loves, 
for all the lost mothers,
all the dogs gone;

count all my gray hairs,
count all my scars—
the purple ones, too,
where babies once slept,
the white ones that still
feel knotted and hard

where illness threatened
to tear me apart
and I was sewn closed
one piece at a time
for fear I’d explode
in a shower of stars.

Ask me. I’ll tell you—
child that you are—
to count all the steps
to the peak of that mountain:
each one’s a day
that I’ve traveled, so far.

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