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Hand Me Downs

Elizabeth Stanfield

Ripoon, WI

Ripon High School



for Katherine Cheever


A friend of mine asked me to write a poem

about myself, and for the first time, I was left

without words. I realized that I can churn out

pages upon pages about lovers and the sea
and holy places and music floating through
the night, but I can’t write a single line about

myself. I don’t know how to weave my grocery

list of redeemable qualities into the tapestry of

Earth’s most beautiful things.


See, I grew up playing in the mud and I

don’t think I ever got the dirt out from

underneath my fingernails. When somebody

says you look good today I can’t tell if

they are reaching out to shake my hand or
slap me. Modesty claws its way out of my throat

every time anyone says something kind and

chokes me until I’m gasping for disinterest
like it’s air. I am a collection of hand-me-downs.

My confidence doesn’t quite fit me yet;
it still hangs off the ends of my hands like I’m a

child playing dress up in my father’s sportcoat. I

have to cuff the hems of my integrity. I wear thick

socks so that my feet fill my compassion. My

honesty falls into my eyes.


But I am still learning, and I am still growing
into this body. My eyes and my smile are tailor made,

and my heart has my initials stitched into it between
its coronary veins. They are mine and only mine,
and I am theirs, and someday they’ll fit me like a glove.

I’ll radiate confidence and integrity and
compassion and honesty and be soft like rose
petals and babies’ dozing breaths but strong like
iron and women’s hands and the ground I skinned
my knees upon in childhood and someday, some

glorious someday, I’ll be unwavering in my love

of myself.


Someday I will know this truth: I have been with me

every second of my life. I am the best friend I’ve ever had.


There’s a story being told here—a child, in a world that is hard on everyone, growing up and trying to find their way. This is a special one.


Elizabeth Stanfield is a senior at Ripon High School in Ripon, Wisconsin. She is the recipient of the 2018 Council for Wisconsin Writers Young Writers Award and has been published in Canvas Literary Magazine, The Ricochet Review and more. She graduates in the spring of 2019.

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