A Sugar Cereal Sestina – by Maddie Malone

There was a time- you can’t pinpoint-when you started
reaching, for the lucky charms on the shelf, because
you had become adult enough, to slip back
into a child. Blue moon, yellow star, a heart turned
violet, violent sugar-stung skin, pink gum bumps, soft
and reactive, the ways you’ve always craved. How great it is to have

began so young, to find so much feeling before you have
to begin feeling them alone. But, when had you started?
you ask, again and again, when did you turn soft
and mushy, and allowed yourself to pull it off the shelf, because
how can you end something without a beginning? I had turned
you from your stomach, because babies should sleep on their backs.

I read an article on how side sleeping made an asymmetrical body, my back
wants to repel against the mattress, so I’ll stare at the ceiling and wonder if you’ll have
my vanity, who wishes my sleep were expendable. I turned
the cereal box over to find the nutrition facts, but when had I started
forgetting the black-and-white text? And when had I begun wincing at it? Because
I’ll wonder if I’ve done the same to you, turning and spinning your soft

belly, looking for the crisp letters to tell me the true things, only to find the soft
pattern of veins, a language I can never seem to read. I know my backward
Is your forward, but I still wish we had the same bodies, not because
I wish you were me, but the anti, for my muddied skin to turn back, to have
yours, violet glow, velour as a petal. Did I begin flower-skinned? Had I started
stainless? Or has it been hidden in me, only to show its face as if I turned

a rock, to find the pillbugs and snakes and slugs underneath, spitting their soft
tongues to me. A film grows over my teeth, and -if left overnight- cannot turn back
to its smooth curve, like a bar of soap. When I wake, I know it has started
to curl its wooly arms around my molars, gritty and grainy, I want my teeth back
as they are swallowed whole. But it’s a comfort too, a warmth in the choice I have:
to leave them unbrushed, to leave them covered in the sweet stuff, because

what good is life without rebellion? Even against my mouth. Because
your breath is so small, shallow like a prey animal, I’ll have turned
into you, by placing you over my chest, syncing our breaths, and I will have
become new and unspent, my mouth like a pearl, oily and slick. I hope my soft
gums separate themselves, an unstirred batter, fat floating to the top, and skimming back
into the earth, like trout through a dam. It seems all day I have started

moving your weight on and off in my mind, shifting your imaginary soft
belly, over and up again. There is not much time before you grow big, smoothing back
your breath into mine, quiet fills of air, and a body too long where I fear you’ve already started.


Maddie Malone is mainly a short fiction author and poet, and is a Junior in high school working towards a career in writing and the arts. You can find her work in The Red Wheelbarrow (2022) and the incoming Summer 2024 Edition of Orchards.