Photography © Linda Matthews-Denham


My What-Ifs Blossom Like Barnacles
          after Sarah Russell

If I had three lives, I’d marry you in two.
The other? I’d stick my virginity in my back pocket
and save it for a rainy day.

I’d evict the herd of elephants living in the attic
of my mind that loves to bowl at 7 a.m. –
Sanity would be as constant as the period
at the end of this sentence.

In that life, I’d be picked first in Manhunt,
find the cure for Celiac Disease & sleep on a bed
of sourdough. Eating wouldn’t feel
like a hot poker jammed down my throat –

I wouldn’t have needed to ask Mommy why my tummy
stuck out more than the other girls at school
because I would’ve been born tall & thin, with clear skin,
and a Usain-Bolt-metabolism that makes gold medals
out of pepperoni pizza. I’d be the poster child of perfection.

And when we’d meet, you & me, it wouldn’t be
on some silly little app, but rather a meet-cute
at a café that sells PB&J lattes and has a house
band that plays Zeppelin in the style of Coltrane.

You’d grab my hand & trace your index finger
along my flat-ironed age lines, reading me like braille.
“Where are they?” you’d ask. “The callouses,
the white barnacles underneath the hull of your hand?”

And I’d say, “Hey *wink wink* I run a six-minute mile,
make Barbie crave a gastric bypass, and love long walks
along the beach. Want to grab a drink?” And you’d say,

“I’m looking for a girl with rough hands and dirt under
her fingernails from pulling herself out of the same grave
she dug. I’m looking for a girl who only realized the value
of her body after pawning it for a crumpled dollar bill,

who taught her noisy elephants how to crochet so she could
sleep in on Sundays; who aced gluten-free chemistry to bake
bread as soft as her stomach, which, yes, does stick out,
but that’s okay because she loves herself – as I love her still.”

“If I had three lives,” you’d say, pulling away.
“I’d marry her in two. The other? I’d step out
into the hallway and wait for her to come home.”


Sophia Upshaw: “I’m 21, and I hail from Tallahassee, Florida. I self-identify as a coffee shop connoisseur, a semi-professional procrastinator, and an avid lover of all things self-expression.”

Linda Matthews-Denham lives in the countryside along the Thames River in Berkshire, England. Her passion is photography, photo restoration and art history of Paris. She also works very closely with many British authors restoring images for publication.