mother says, worry etched into
the crevices of every syllable.
She tucks a soft prayer
behind my ear before I leave
home with an 11kg backpack
stuffed to the brim with rigid
fears and unwieldy trepidations
that dig into (but do not break)
obstinate back bone.
Head held high, my tongue weaves
fake bravado into truth-coated lies,
squeezes big talk past smiling
teeth as they chatter but do not chit
chat, keep wandering eyes on well-lit
road and itchy feet on beaten track,
never walk beyond the safety of the light.
After all, aren’t all little girls taught
they must fear the night?