Lily, are you scared?

Your name was Lily,

and everyone who knew you knew 

that the moment you entered a room

it was like everyone started to choke

on the enormous elephant,

your small stature created.

We all had to fill our throats with noise

to tame ourselves from asking the question.

We choked down our own syllables 

and spoke the code of small talk,

while you walked as if you didn’t notice.

Your baldness gleams like a light house,

and we lonely ships scurry away

from the sharp rocks that jut out

like your bones,

which stand out like symbols in brail

even beneath your clothes.

Even the blind people know

you are sick.

Where you stepped,

ripples broke out and we too took a step back

as if we could be infected by you.

The moment you left

we became doctors,

donning our lab coats

we tried to analyze your illness

we burst into conversation

of what possibly could be wrong with you.

Still, unable to ask the question

we were all dying to know the answer to:


“Lily, are you scared?”


Because you hold your chin a little higher than the rest of us,

as though you’ve figured out this whole death thing

you breach each tidal wave of a hospital visit

with a constant braveness that goes to say

you didn’t just appear here.

You had to earn every day, every breath

you’ve fought like a dog for your life and it’s not much,

it’s all bone with no meat,

but it’s enough.

And us, draped in our health like designer brands,

we cower in fear,

we’re terrified of a little stick-skinned girl

who stands taller than all of us.

We are like the rich who have achieved everything

and still cannot capture the glint in the eye

of a homeless man as he pockets a dime.

And we just want to ask 

“Lily, are you scared?”

but we can’t.

Our social skills tell us no.


“Lily, are you scared?”

You will never have children.

You will never have a career.

You will never get married.

You’re like a ticking time bomb set to zero

and we are all just holding our breath

for you to explode.

But you don’t.

Instead you greet each day with a smile,

and every stare you return with a wink.

You are like that warm little center of the world

we all crowd around,

you are like our Jesus,

if we could just touch you and find out your secret,

we too would be healed.

You remind us that though you will never find a partner,

you are loved.

You teach us that living

has less to do with a final outcome

and more with how you spend the minutes

you already have.


“Lily, are you scared?”

Because you are ten years old,

and your life is half over.

You’re like a flower planted in a bed so shallow

it cannot grow,

we watch you wilt and wither,

any amount of help we can give you

amounts to nothing,

to the point where we don’t know if we are trying to fix you,

or if we are just filling up empty hours

so in the event of your death

when we look at each other

beneath black umbrellas,

at least we can say

we tried.


Lily, are you scared?


You used to say, when people asked,

how you got your name

that your parents wanted to name you Tiger,

and found the next best thing.

You said that though your name is Lily

tiger comes first, and for you,

your life is not a tragedy 

but a miracle,

as if every time the sun set we never knew if it would come back up again.

You said your fear was only the underscore

to your symphony of success.

You said the difference is

we are all afraid of dying

but you are the only one

who is not afraid to live.


The End

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