an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
I forget the last time
I set foot in a park
I forget my old friends
Their laughs and smiles and mannerisms
I forget what my grandfather looked like
He exists solely in sepia tone portraits
[Content warning: self-harm/suicide attempt. Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255]
“Get out of our way, weirdo!” they shouted.
I felt like I was being crushed under a mountain,
My heart pounded in my chest, tears came next,
I felt lonely, fallen and devastated.
[Content warning: depressive/anxious thoughts]
no one wants someone so broken they can’t pick up the pieces of the wreckage
everyone wants someone who’s made it through the dark
has harrowing stories about how they faded until there was nothing left
then found a miracle hidden in shadow
I see myself abandoned in infinity.
there'll be glass there,
glass where the raindrops will race.
an unending, ethereal solitude
an abandoned existence.
i remember my father
talking in the kitchen
about the chinese dragon
as he prepared his lunch.
“it’s a symbol of power,”
he told me,
orange skin between my teeth,
the smoke-sweet flavor still remains;
on my shirt are orange stains,
the table holds a citrus wreath:
drops of juice wet underneath
while I sit with a rotting brain.
the tree splits open
and I see every pair of open arms
I’ve ever known
some innocent most
decaying, they skulk
towards the version of me that
asked for a glass of water. opaqueness
[Content warning: mentions of self-harm, depression]
there is a mermaid in the bathroom, and her alabaster heart splays moondust on the tiles.
i find iridescent tears clogging the drain / unconsciously, my fingers reach out to clutch / beauty in its final moments, reveries / fluttering like decaying butterflies to a sky / with opened arms.
In the photo my father took last year,
my grandmother and I stand on the shaved
grass in the front yard of her house
in Gonjiam. The sweet and fruity aroma
of Mugunghwa flowers wafts across
the garden. I see the watercolor sky free
of clouds and pigeons graze over
i wonder why girls have to be broken to be beautiful
and why boys wait to be fixed
by hands that can barely hold their own weight
he calls me at night and i can hear the candied, the crushed, the syrup
dripping from his lips
slurred words that shouldn’t feel this soft
but they do, and there will be time to repent when the sun comes up
Ah, one day
I will look deep into your eyes
In the depths of your black pupils
And I will say that you planted sunflowers on me.
They grow and curl up in my guts,
The long green stems go up to my throat,
They blur my vision,
Steal the air from my poor lungs.
if only these chipped bones would feel
something bigger than breath chafing
broken-elevator lungs, the thistles
prickling in wait under my skin.
cast a fishing line into sullied consciousness
and you’ll find shards of sea glass, ennui eroded
until it shines like something beautiful.
my prayers chant before dawn
cross shine pure like morning sun
my deep piety prompts
hands to grip like mussels
scorching breathing floating
above stubborn clavicle
weep within my wonder
Your Bible of my profanity
taps on the door and other clichés,
sometimes i wonder if i cry too much.
now i didn’t know there was an upper limit to
salted tears and wilted water,
a quota on how much redness could take over a face until
i felt myself cold
on the ground,
having hit the ceiling and ricocheted back--
Manuel’s neck fried under the cruel Texas sun. His favorite long-brimmed Toquilla hat would have protected him. Instead, a baseball cap was a scant substitute. Carlos, his boss, demanded, “Look like you belong here. Not a lawn monkey.”
Manuel picked up a heavy saw and climbed the first of five large oak trees. His usual partner had called in sick. The two were the only Ecuadorians on the landscape crew.
Hours later, Manuel’s t-shirts and pants dripped with sweat. The saw frequently slipped from his grip. I am going to finish cutting the last branch and come down for a short siesta, thought Manuel. He was perched on a thick tree limb when it snapped. For an instant, Manuel felt the cool breeze on his wet skin as his small body plummeted to the ground. The bliss was snatched away by the agony of the saw landing on him. The world around the boy faded black.
There are days
I have wondered if I am truly a poet,
If I will ever belong.
There are days when I know
That I should hear the people telling me to take my time
And to love deeply and
To hurt incredibly
Because the ending will be all the more worth it.
[Content warning: strong language, drug use, sexual reference]
It’s always winter there, but it feels like autumn, because it’s all slightly dead and slightly broken. It’s 2013 and you’re still young and skinny and your family can afford the trip. They use pounds there but the pounds look like big stamps and you forget it’s money and you start buying stuff only a teen would. It’s 7:30 not 4:20 but you’re smoking all the same. You don’t care, you have long, silver cigarettes (the cheapest, still too expensive) for breakfast. You drink Monster before classes, not coffee, because you know you’ll need it and because you pretend to care but don’t and that’s okay because you’re 16 and in love and there’s parks everywhere and people say hi and no one steals a thing because you’re in Europe and South America is far away.
I was on the rooftop when this happened. It was New Year’s Eve – this last one. Up there, looking up, the sky was poorly lit. The stars hid for the most part, faintly winking, coming back every now and again only to dissolve again, and everything, for a moment, wasn’t so bad. I don’t know why I was up there. I only ever go up when the net is gone, and it must have been so on that black, little night. It was quiet, simple, but it wasn’t quiet for long. I heard a whisper, another whisper, more whispers until I could hear music – music faint and at the back. It was the whispers that sounded and what made me, as I did without my realizing so, walk to the edge of my roof, where, looking down, I could see a group, lined up in a circle, half of them smiling and half of them nervous. I rested my elbows on the railing and leaned as far as I could. I watched and listened.
Father plays hide and seek with us every night before we go lie on the petals,
He hides in the corner that leads him out of the house/ he will come back/ he will come back/ he will not/ I'm grateful that he does come back every time
I dip my feet in the warm water he brings home every night,
Guilty of doing so
I. The Goldcutter
Most people remember my mother for one thing: her golden hair.
Everyone used to treat it like it was something to behold, but I’ve always thought hair was hair and that was it. Then again I wasn’t blessed with Mother’s blondeness, or her beauty for that matter, as both Mother and the other neighborhood matrons have been keen to point out.
In the slender branches of an oak tree, a small songbird alighted gracefully, the branch trembling slightly under its tiny feet. The wind whispered as the bird’s eyes darted around, scanning its surroundings. Suddenly, the bird lifted its head, letting a melody pour from its throat: four short, gentle notes, followed by a rapid trill. The bird paused, looked around, and then repeated the melody.
[Content warning: panic attack, depression]
mental illness: the musical off-broadway run/lights go down/slowly/then all at once/then the theatre becomes unsettling/begins to vibrate/slowly warms itself/darkens/nervously sweats/end of act one/they call that number panic attack/critics say it’s an immersive experience/you feel like you’re having a panic attack/maybe you do have a panic attack/this is the first act/conveniently placed so the cast can have their panic attack before stepping on stage/but they do/
You lived in a house in Yeokchondong, at the outskirts of Seoul where corners of garments pinched on clotheslines ran across windows. There was a watch shop across your house, bold red, blue letters painted on its glass walls. Behind the counter, the cheap metal rims and faux gold straps of the watches glistened. This was the very house my father grew up in. The thin, crusty walls browned and yellowed from its decades, perhaps centuries. Faint, gray mold swelled from every corner, where the floor and the walls met. It reminded me of your blue-violet veins fanning across your wrists.
why do all my friends like blue? the shade
we all use to symbolize sadness. is it the
mysteriousness that lures them
like how sirens attract sailors with their eerie voices?
is it the yearning for validation
for such emotion may only be permitted
through the most asphyxiating adversities?
some days, your name
is the most terrifying thing i know.
i don't dare write it, i don't dare
utter a stronger, deadlier word.
i have plucked my heart's contents like
flower petals, gave i love you's away like
flyers — i did not know the difference between
reckless and careless
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.