a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
Living in Darkness by Tei Kim
I am trapped in darkness
But it’s better, some say
To forever live in darkness
than to ever see the light
The metallic air hangs heavy with the deafening silence of war. I cannot hear, nor see, nor remember; I am as ancient stones underground must be – laying still and unmoving in the earth as extreme pressures crush them; having experienced so much that all they can bear to be is cold, ashen granite. Into this abyss comes, as from a faraway fantasy, birdsong; a high trill of youth, hope and light, reaching me in my darkness. The sound feels strange in this grey, bleak desolation, like the ghost of happiness, like a figment of some faithful imagination. All at once, I am pulled back and my senses are assaulted, making me dizzy and turning the edges of my awareness fuzzy as nausea settles into the pit of my stomach.
the purple lights start to fade, the crowd dying with them.
your eyes once hidden in the crowd glow vermillion,
failing to camouflage themselves beneath the shadows
of your white pupil, an outcast among the filthy onyx pupils
bulging at the centers of the undressed dancers’ eyes.
i didn’t want to learn the name of
the wells above your furrowed flour brows
solemnly set down your mug
syrup fills my lungs in a breath that holds
whisked to wonder
the air turned brittle
The kind where
you ransack your drawers
Launching cannonballs of clothing into the air
Clawing for that one joint
you knew you misplaced once.
if time is queer and life is a journey,
if a hill is an obstacle and oceans make waves,
if the tip of my nose turns red in the cold,
a Garden is still a Garden.
She takes care of Her Garden.
I have become close friends with midnight,
often holding hands with the clock as it strikes twelve,
wondering if I can push back the time far enough
so that dawn might never arrive.
sans the new soul by Cheryl Tan (16)*
for Jamie (she/her)
you are diagnosed with lost, doppelgänger’s wanderlust
curate an identity in language and code, polylingual coupons
out of the sinking sandbed you call home but look at you:
camera in hand, eyes shuttering, the truth wrapped in
plasticised tears. this is dislocation as you know it, normalcy
bleeding your heart’s chrysalis, a butterfly broken mid-escape
i wish i could tell you about the myriad of clippings from my mind’s daily paper,
but i’m scared that upon peeling back one too many layers of my cocoon,
you’ll encounter the butterflies blundering blindly in my ribcage
and the words that have dissipated halfway up my windpipe. ensconced
in a darkness as suffocating as it is empty, i am alone like i always have been.
Predators don’t come around to show
you silver cutlery for your eyes, lend
you milk. I am ten years old when I
review nonchalant anatomy until
the smell of cinnamon sifted throughout the corners of the house,
filling the air with sweet desire and the guilty pleasure of gluttony.
i was young; foolish and naive, though i make no claim or promise that i am no longer both.
a child until i was old enough to cross the street
to tell the neighbors to leave my brother alone.
i used to coat my toast in cinnamon like the salty taste of a lost childhood coated on my mind.
i don't like cinnamon anymore.
Ten minutes on the balcony was always too short.
Our colorful heads leaned against each other,
mere naive creatures
with poetry on our unwashed hands.
Back inside, chairs were unbearable barriers
so we pressed the metal legs together
and whispered until
we were the troublesome ones.
When I die,
I will be dust caught in the burning mass of engines
or dances with skin matter in fading daylight
I will be cliche autumn leaves clumping in brown mass
undefined by Malena Mayell (16, Oregon)
normal? by Ilana Drake (19)
i talked to him the other day
about what it is like to
have eyes in the back
of your head, not
because you want to,
but because you have to
These ducks should look prettier than they do
Because everyone else smiles
when they see glints of brown rice feathers, giggles
when the wood chips cuddle in the wind.
And I just sit here stranded
in the sirens.
Does it not hurt you to open your jaw?
my mother ran into you today
at the park by the lake where
we had our first bath in nature
six autumns ago and that was
the first time we had escaped
from our parent's houses for
though it was four in the evening
When Zoe stepped off the bus this Friday, the sky mirrored a baby boy’s nursery walls, if the baby hadn’t arrived home from the hospital. Water-stained stucco townhouses stood as they always did with fake rock painted over front doors, and english ivy creeping up towards the shingles. November air whipped through the 14-year-old’s chestnut hair and ruffled a small folded wad of loose leaf paper clenched in her hand. The shaky “To: Mom” written in blue-inked lines wrinkled in the wind. She checked her necklace clasp resting on the nape of her neck and started to plod home, each foot barely advancing more than three inches after the other. The gray trees that looked like the grim reaper’s fingers did little to console her somersaulting stomach.
Wordsmith by Malena Mayell (16, Oregon)
I once scraped symbols into
my notebooks, discovered an oasis of divinity
hidden within a mess of muddled text. I felt the shackles loosen
as the words poured out. Mom cat dad hut rat. Look, see,
I’m a writer. I scrawl poems
into post-it notes when the teacher’s not
I am not the kind of girl people write stories about. I have no desirable qualities or fatal flaws, but I am prevalent. I am ordinary. I breathe air, drink half-filled dreams out of lukewarm cups, and eat when I am due for a proper nutrition break. Every day, I follow a routine, but sometimes I break it–never to the point when I am beginning to feel clumsy–and I occasionally forget to double-knot my off brand shoes. On school days, I am average but unsolvable. No bullies, no friends, no philosophical thoughts to ponder upon until the lunch bell pops the bubble
hovering over my head. When I go to the library afterschool, I take as many books off the
shelves as I can make time for and caress their spines with my fingertips, crack them open to
smell the raw memories etched on each page. I do not read any of them, and I forget their titles,
but never the textures of their unreachable worlds.
i save a seat for the new girl / vibrant anticipation / balancing atop tentative friendship / i share stories of how the last one / moved upstate through a mouthful of cheese sticks / i was wondering if you’d like to be my new best friend? / i’m bold, so are you / your promise wavers in the air between your teeth / i believe you / we’re laughing at our teacher’s joke / we make a good pair don’t we? / at lunch we swing the tether ball / you share the secrets you’ve never voiced / promise i won’t tell / your tangled hair gets wrapped up in mine / it’s all the same
Tilting platforms, swirling colors
The opening scene of a film.
Is this truly an illusion if it drowns my senses?
So I return to
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.