Hollowed Bodies – by Tara Prakash

My mother peels the bark with a wrinkled hand, her fingers pulling strength from the tree
like sun melting, like windmills turning, like blades of grass holding

the weight of a water droplet.

She works quickly, like ripping a bandage off fragile flesh. She works until her hands ache, until
she winces when she stretches and contracts her slender fingers. Yet she keeps pulling, her
thumbs caressing the soft spots of the bark.

Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done, she always told me.

She continues until the body is ripped of its clothes, until the trunk is naked and smooth. She
closes her eyes, resting her fingers against the torso pulsating with life, with motion, with space
it cannot fill.

It is strong. She whispers. You are strong. She listens for a reply. The body is scraped with
lacerations, scars that shave through the wood, almost deep enough to draw blood, but not quite.
Deep reds taint the chestnut, bruising the tree. It does not answer. You are strong. The noise
shatters through the forest space. Her voice is louder now, as though she is trying to startle the
body into motion.

She pounds the wood, bony knuckles colliding with wood. Once. Twice. Three times. See?, she
says. You are strong. You are strong.

She stands back, keeling over as her shoulders shake with sobs. Her tears fall over her bleeding
hands. She wraps her arms around the body, and stands, eyes closed as though waiting for the
tree to hug her back. She tells me,

this is where we begin.

Tara PrakashTara Prakash is a sophomore at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Her work has been recognized in Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (where she won a National Gold Medal), Blue Marble Review, Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest, The Daphne Review, and other literary journals and platforms. She enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction essays.