an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
November 22nd, 2019
I’m going to try to get this over with quickly and save us both a little heartbreak. I think it goes without saying that this is my last letter. I’m sorry that it’s come to this; there is no way for me to change what is about to happen, no matter how intensely I wish I could. The last year and one month with you have given me the perspective I’ve been craving since my accident. It’s amazing the joy and purpose that comes from a few typewritten pages from you every couple of weeks. I’ll forever be grateful for the short time I was able to have by your side as your days here dwindled down into a few last minutes on an execution table—the world has a sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?
The children are starving.
Their hearts are hungry, and their voices are raw.
They crowd the streets, screaming to be heard.
They say our phones are all we care for. No, our phones are our escape.
Social media hears our pleas.
Where presidents fail, social media begs for our voices to be heard.
A pandemic, global warming, racism.
What will it take for our voices to be heard?
I applaud you, Gen Z.
In the face of adversity, we do what world leaders won’t.
I fear you, Gen Z.
What will we do when we are unleashed on the world?
We are making real change.
We spend our whole lives being told that we can do anything,
as long as we do our best.
But what if our best isn’t good enough?
It doesn’t feel like your best if you’re comparing
your life to others' lives.
Your journey to others’ journeys.
Written in the style of Lorrie Moore.
When you’re in first grade, your mom will tell you to pick an instrument. “To be a well rounded person, you shouldn’t just be good at school, you should have skills in other areas of life too," your mom will say. You will only be, like, six or seven years old, so you won’t really get it. You’ll just shrug your shoulders and hope that being a well rounded person doesn’t include playing sports too. Off the top of your head, you pick the violin because you don’t want to play something you have to blow into.
Life was simple.
The air was clear.
I was happy;
I had life-
it was what I wanted.
Without warning you
You were a thief.
With that, I changed.
when Waltzing Alone in an abandoned ballroom
is deemed insanity
i will set myself alight
dousing myself in belladonna-infused gasoline,
perfuming my bones like death peeling back my skin
with the tulle of my skirt wet with fallen rain and
unfulfilled prophecies, words caught from northern
invention created from these newborn hands,
calluses on the fingertips.
pieces of history forced down my throat, tasting like
raw coffee beans and broken lipsticks
my character shoes prancing on marble
the statues on the wall judging my form,
why does your admiration for me drop with each inch that my neckline plunges?
femininity is a fierce thing, but surely, you’ve spit venom at more formidable women than i
does the fluorescent glint of the light off my bare shoulders blind you so?
does the fabric of my velvet mini-skirt threaten to choke, and do the loose frills of my rose-
colored cardigan murmur threats of tangling your neck in a noose?
does skin scare you, sir? and if it does, why dare to whisper to the enemy?
when treading the den of a snake, you fear her poison—do you tell her this, too?
“Verena!” A boy growled and followed his much smaller and mischievous partner into the shadows.
They weren’t partners in a romantic sense, though the girl was certainly attracted to him. No, the girl was one of the most feared and elusive assassins in all of Avianor, and at only age 16 she had slain more men than were on the Emperor’s Guard.
The boy loathed her. As the Captain of the Guard, he was constantly running after her, cleaning up her messes and keeping her out of trouble.
The Captain was in charge of the girl’s safety. You would think the heir to an empire would sit in meetings all day, but Verena was different. Darker somehow and always aching to avenge her mother’s untimely demise. Odd, as her mother had passed away when Verena was only 8 years old
thoughts on having a girlfriend who lives 22 miles away during a nationwide lockdown by Lucy Butler (20, United Kingdom)
I’m trying to take things hour by hour,
by which I mean at 8am
I’ll be thinking
this is usually when the sunrise wakes me,
creeping through the slit in the curtains
that she never shuts completely,
a golden gash of day,
bleeding onto my side of her bed,
onto my eyelids,
into my dreams
until I’m no longer asleep.
Her face, glossed with the light of dawn,
is the first thing I see.
I pinch my skin, just in case.
Prince Charming is the jewel
You spend your whole life looking for,
The prize that affirms your worth
Through kisses and words of love,
The perfect man, who shields you
From your mundane existence.
Prince Charming, whose elegance
Overshadows your clumsiness,
Whose muscled arms distract
From the scars on your arms,
Whose winning smiles erase
The hatred so many have for you.
Is like a clap of thunder
The gun shot just before
The race begins.
It’s all excitement, all pressure
The constant grind
To transform from a piece of coal
Into a diamond.
i’d say there’s no art in losing yourself but why else am i a poet? by Jaiden Thompson (14, Washington)*
there’s something about the lakes
and the way her eyelids damn me
like crosses lodged in my throat
and i never believed in sacrifice
but maybe the lord was a queen
fabrics caught in our static sun
and he simply ripped apart
bloody and bare and beaten
and black eyes aren’t black
they’re like sickly peacocks
but i’m meant to be a rooster
There were dragons in the twin’s vegetable garden.
Jacob watched from the window as one of them ate radish right from the plump soil.
“Mom!” He yelled.
His mother was downstairs on their treadmill. “Yes, honey?”
“There are dragons in the vegetable garden!”
He heard his mother laugh. “Oh, don’t be silly, Jacob. I can see the garden right now, and there’s no dragons for miles! They all returned to their caves to hibernate a couple weeks ago.”
Jacob looked out his window. The dragons were still there. Now one was pulling up the melons.
He went into his brother’s room. “Jack, there are dragons-”
“I’m doing my homework. Get out.”
there is a little light at the end of the street
and it flickers like a man-made love.
and revives. tall shadows of gypsum gloom
slink closer in silence, far too little left to
haunt. the night hiccups slowly, but
there is no moonlight between cupped hands.
no serene lullabies hanging taut between
lovers, between flat plain-pain of empty breasts.
you carry sandalwood in your pockets and the
entire city stinks of the forbidden. listen to me
sometime; bathtub pipe dreams cemented in
cold glass, cold whistle. i carry far too much
rhapsody in milk bottles that rot on my counter-tops.
there is no space for you in my refrigerator
but sometimes, i wish for ice-cubes that taste like
there is a little light at the end of the street
and now i'm switching it off.
I never really saw the stars, or the universe at all. Just because it was covered by darkness and fear. With its horrible sight of evil, it changed. And when I said it changed, my friend, it did. Because of hope and the lightness that came back. I wanted to wash all the sickness and make it clean again. With its white and beautiful colors of light, humanity began reassuring that everything is going to be okay again. It took one day at a time to remove all the darkness because there was a lot of it. But if we have hope in it. We will make it go away much faster. We want to make this thing go away. On the 365th day, it was gone, the darkness was gone and everything evil was gone. If that darkness ever comes back, we will come together as one and we will fight it away. But on that night we saw the stars and the universe again. It was magnificent. The glittery and the white stars that shimmer with happiness and excitement. With the universe, we saw the wonderful white and greyish moon that glistens in the sky. And the sky was amazing and it was a navy blue color with the white and puffy clouds. That was the day we saw the stars and the universe again.
I always wonder what it is like to be someone else. I was always a quiet kid, someone who didn’t talk much and preferred a book over people. Until now.
I guess being mute was boring after a while. Sure, I wasn’t completely mute, I still talked, but it seemed like the world hated me. Remember that feeling when everyone in your class got ice cream and you didn’t? It kind of feels like that. I was left out.
the house on the hill is empty. the furors have long
let themselves out, only tumbleweed remains. the
house knows its worth. the winds sweep away fine
dust every Sunday afternoon, the house cares for
them each winter. the village folk have evaporated.
the house knows of only their existence, though it
suspects no one else remains, too. the lost people
left stitched flower petals in their wake, and it’s
strange how someone so capable is now reduced
to a few parallel threads and a masked craft person's
skill. every “i’m here and thinking of you but too afraid
to call,” has gone unaccounted for, their pencil lines
chafing till they remain no more. hundreds of cicadas
still bloom in a near perfect circle, no one is left to
cup their petals. controversies wait to be harvested.
God is silent. Even as I scream my prayers into the heavens, only darkness answers. His silence coats my veins in wax and seals away my spirit. If the number of my sins rival the stars, why will he not count them? He is silent. If I am to be bound by wax it will be by my own crest - I refuse to sacrifice my own feeling for the will of a silent God.
Perhaps my prayers can’t be answered. Perhaps I am to be content in His image.
I will keep inking the paper that has been presented before me until I have nothing to extract, until I have nothing. But there is everything to write, everything to know, and beyond that is what is yet to befall upon many of us in the midst of this pandemic. The deeply-rooted issue has regressed for the umpteenth time and its reactions have surpassed its limit, its patience, to the nth degree. History is repeating itself in the open, as a maddeningly viralized dimension of America has resurfaced. This year is a year we did not ask for. This year is a retelling of what should remain in the past, but has progressed and persevered to the point that society is actually moving backward. This year is an affirmation of how pronounced the problem is, and many have failed to acknowledge it actively.
“George Floy(D) unrest: Pol(I)ce out in force in major cities to tamp down on riots as curfews take effect” - Fox News “Riots, looting after George Flord death could deal fatal blow to businesses reeling from (V)(I)rus outbreak” - Fox Business “Protests Over George Floyd (D)(E)ath( )Block (T)raffic, Reac(H) Trump Tower” - The N(E)w York Ti(M)es( ) “A(M)erican carnage: These aren’t pr(O)tests - they’(R)(E) riots.( )Someone must en(D) the lawlessness” -USA TODAY “R(I)ots against police (V)(I)olence aren’t the an(S)wer” – Vox “Reth(I)nking the Ri(O)ts” - The Chicago Maroo(N) “Troubling( )videos capture L.A. police violence a(M)id prot(E)sts” - Los (A)ngeles Times “State, federal age(N)t(S) investigating( )‘violent extre(M)ists’ c(O)nnected to Austin p(R)ot(E)sts” - KXAN( ) “(M)ass pr(O)tests a(N)d mayh(E)m continue into a sixth night; thousands nationwide are arrested during weekend” - Washington Post “Wh(Y)( )Violent Protests Work”
This creeping feeling
and I try to outthink it.
Crawling. Crawling. Crawling.
and I am overwhelmed
by this trend.
Down a spiral, tunneling in wilts.
The thoughts in my head danced to the walkabout beats
Marching and stomping as my head throbbed
I tried not to think, to keep the memories away
I tried not to blink, to keep the tears in
Then he tapped me and asked, "How are you?"
The pain I had stomached all these years
Tore right through my gut
The excruciating sting traveled down my spine as reality hit me hard
But with a deep breath, I swept it all in
My facade built up its defence walls in an instant
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.