Holly; Kayla Marie Williams


I can remember the way

all this want once began.

Me, a small dark-haired girl 

in the back of my mother’s used Toyota,

I stared over seats and out windows 

as she drove us through the rich neighborhood.

We imagined the lives inside the towering houses,

the lives so unlike ours.

My mother handed me a donut 

and I licked off the sugary glaze, 

prolonging the first bite as if it would

disappear in my hands. 

Sometimes everything feels like the last of everything.

That Christmas, the landlord came and hacked away the holly bushes 

that grew by the front door.

My mother watched from inside, 

at the window, angry but quiet.

I pulled on her shirt, yelling that she should tell them

we wanted to make a wreath for the door.

“It doesn’t belong to us,” she scolded.

She stopped me from running outside,

She stopped me from screaming and starting a scene. 

But something had already begun to change inside me,

my cells now alight with reprisal, ire shifting into caged desire. 

Now I walk in a state I am not from, in a neighborhood I’ve made mine, 

in a house I do not own but where I am safe, the landlords are kind. 

I am a woman who has seen too much, 

I am a woman who has lived through enough.

I walk the streets alone and imagine a life that might still expand and grow. 

I am so much closer now, I am so close. 

I take pictures of all the holly bushes I see with my phone. 

I want to make a wreath from all the things that have broken my heart.

I want to hang it outside, on my door, so everyone knows. 

Kayla Marie Williams was born in Austin, Texas and has lived in Toledo, Ohio for over a decade. She has a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Kayla hosts and produces an all-digital music show called Radio Alchemy. You can listen to her show at mixcloud.com/radioalchemy (or through the free Mixcloud app).