The Village That Raised Me

The Unexpected, Anasstassiya Selezneva

It took a village.  

One house next to another, four in a row.  

Cousins and uncles on each end 

with grandparents in the middle.  

It took a village to show me how to pick raspberries in the summer time, 

my grandmother’s crinkled fingers 

yanking them from their 


piece by blessed-onyx piece. 

It took a village to separate my infant hands 

from the funny plant on 

Uncle Toto’s house. 

It took a village to explain to me 

that that funny plant 

was the reason my arms were so itchy for a week.  

It took a village of brothers 

to show me how to wrestle, 

how to be merciless,

how to hurt and to love.  

It took a village of moms and dads to break up our mock battles

and beaming gentle warfare.  

As my words turned cruel, 

and my attitude apathetic, 

it took a village of friends, 

and helpers, 

and lovers  

to listen 

to my silent screams for help 

and comply by tearing down my walls 

and giving me the chance 

to build a heart out of the rubble.  

When I was a kid, it took a village 

to get me to the top of the mountain.  

The mountain where stood a quiet little cabin.

A cabin of logs and plaster.  

A cabin which contained a Giant of mossy rock and old-world magic 

and his wife who assured me he was only just a man.  

When it came time to carry that man 

down the stone stairs of that mountain

for the last time, 

I joined the village in bearing the weight of his legacy.  

His Legacy.

It took a village to take a scalpel to my home, 

separate all the parts that keep me there, 

and transplant myself

in a choking city 

far away.

Mom, dad, 

brothers and uncles helped me

load everything that I am into that car

and drive to my next destination. 

My village grew when my roommates proved 

far kinder than any college freshman has the right to expect.  

Three roommates is a lot for a freshman to deal with, I am told. 

Three friends is the easiest thing in the world.

These people – 

my village of broken family members, 

part-time comrades, and 

houses four in a row – 

made me, like brilliant painters only just beginning to work with clay, 

slipping up, falling, failing,

but dammit, they’re learning. 

They’re learning.  

We all are.  


About the Author

Mathias James · Goucher College

Mathias James is currently a senior at Goucher College in Baltimore MD, where he operates under a different name and pursues a major in History and a minor in English Literature. His writing centers on themes of childhood, brotherhood, family, nostalgia, Irish history and folklore, and queerness. This piece originally appeared in The Preface.

About the Artist

Anastassiya Selezneva · University of Central Arkansas

Anastassiya Selezneva is an international student from Kazakhstan majoring in graphic design. Her work Besides studying, she is passionate about her work as a muralist and children’s book illustrator. “The Unexpectedis the result of her love for experiments with creativity and different media. It first appeared in Vortex. 

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