a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
One fine day
In meadows faraway
As I strayed
Reminiscing the yonder ways
The golden grass shining
With dew drops divining
I came across that familiar place
Where once stood my Solace
Seeking birds’ eggs
And falling on the cushioned bushes
I gripped my microphone in my right hand and looked into the crowd to see all eyes on me. I watch the countdown, five seconds left. To my right, my dad has his hands on the keyboard and gives me a nod of assurance. The lights go dark. Three, two, one. The first C chord is played and the drum beat begins. I close my eyes and all nerves wash away as the music flows through my ears.
My first encounter with music was in the womb. The fetal stage has more influence on one’s language and listening skills than expected. This is when we learn to differentiate familiar and unfamiliar sounds. The high plasticity of the brain allows us to form neural pathways before we even take our first breath (Schreiber). My strongest neural pathway was developed from my mother being repeatedly exposed to music during pregnancy.
\ ˈgrās \
Origins: Middle English: via Old French from Latin gratia, from gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’; related to grateful.
there are some days where none of it seems real. when nothing seems real, when you feel like life isn’t real and you’re just on some weird ship going to some weird destination that you know you’ll never truly know. a destination where all souls congregate, where your once fervently celebrated individuality dissolves into absolute nothingness and you are back with nothing but everything and you don’t know who you are anymore because really you aren’t anyone anymore but you are everyone and absolutely everything now.
like a flower ensnared by a weed,
I am a child strangled by the future
in this field of pastel watercolor, I sink to my knees
blood sloshes in the veins
between my ears; there is a pounding in my skull as
faces spill into my head, young and familiar
laughing. I don’t need to run my finger along
the curve of your smile to know
every intimate line of your expression
yet now? you wear a stranger’s face. maybe that’s just
who you are.
An Open Letter to my (ADHD, OCD, and Dyslexic) Brother about Grades by Luca Bernardini (17, California)
You are easily one of the smartest people I know. You annoy the hell out of me most of the time, but it’s not because you’re stupid. I have never met anyone who’s brain works the way yours does. Remember the other night when you helped me with my math homework? You had a strange method of solving the equation, but, somehow, you got it right. Somehow, without showing any work at all, in your brain, you put the pieces together to find out the value of x.
On the Stars by Jessica Li (17, Ohio)
It’s not like the movies. The sky isn’t grey. There isn’t any rain. The grass smells fresh with morning dew, but the smell of newly overturned dirt is stronger.
There are only six people standing, but the tension is thick like a mob. Surprisingly though, no one is crying. People should be crying, it’s a funeral. The body in the casket is wrinkle free, hardly four feet long. She was seven years old. Hadn’t lived long enough to even understand what death is, and now she’s more aware than anyone. Her white dress lays still, almost like it’s too afraid to move. That along with her grey skin really made Violet look carved from stone.
The pearly gates were some scrap of a thing.
I found that they were not wrought from gemstones. They weren’t framed in those ornate, sun-kissed curlicues you see on Christian billboards. Rather, they’d been thrown together from that back-gate, chain link kind of fencing. The kind that creaks, digging through the weeds every time you walk by. The kind that makes your hands smell of metal, left stuck with rusty colored flakes.
Apollo by Alex Choi (18, Virginia)
you never were fond of cheap musicians
or coffee shop interludes
rather you had divine taste like
honeyed ambrosia percolating down the back of your throat
golden purity tricolating through your veins
midas would’ve envied your brilliance
The funny thing about living is that it’s both a blessing and a curse. There are beautiful sunsets and fresh fruits, but beauty is only a skin-deep game. There’s meeting souls and learning about something more than just yourself and the soil meant to be stood on. There’s the rain-kissed clothes, bags, and flowers emitting the finest of petrichor, and then there’s the raining of blood. There’s pain behind piety and sin behind demure. There are wings to fly, but bullets to shoot it down and hands to clip it too tight.
I. manic pixie dream girl:
has hair that’s fried just enough to still be polite. a porcine snort and a delicate twirl.
sparkles in his eyes, the halo so bright it creates a stubborn ring of light in his irises that activates when she appears, like mist, or like the mud that sprays on his face when a car rushes by in the city.
shines in his city, his world of grim sadness and childhood trauma and daddy issues.
inside her body stayed a country
that’s not even her country.
inside her amputated leg laid a country
that even when the leg a bleeding ghost already,
the country doesn’t leave
but plead red-iced loyalty.
inside her families stayed a country
that refused to realize
its encampment in their lineages.
Ma spoons her some medicine
she must take daily
from his seat.
[content warning: imagery of guns]
why call it a trigger
like i contain explosions
maybe a veteran would
but i’m only a student
Copper by Avik Belenje (15, California)
I ran from you when first we met.
I trembled, fearing you would spring at me.
I hid behind my dad while tears befogged my eyes.
I saw you then with me, the prey, and you, the crouching wolf.
Shoes by Alex Tang (18, Ohio)*
[content warning: self-harm]
What do you want me to do with your shoes? Answer me. I swear to god I’m not joking this time. See the giant recycling bin in front of me? Your tactical boots are about to go in it.
If you want me to keep them for you just tell me but don’t just lay them out like that on the window sill. It’s not like you’ve never left stuff at my place before. Remember when you left your hockey stick in my closet and had a game that day? I’m sorry I didn’t hear you banging on the door. I was sleeping with my headphones on. I woke up to your texts and ran to the courts with the stick though. You probably borrowed someone else’s stick so it worked out in the end didn’t it.
[content warning: self harm]
time immemorial was my last dream
there is no place for dreams in a body devoid of imagination
in a soul that is deviant
with usurped fallacies and broken delusion
rather my nights are empty
only to be succeeded by hollower days
the sun that rises and falls
i can at least count on that
Ubiquitous means to be appearing everywhere. Do you know what has become seemingly ubiquitous everywhere I go? My brother Kaleb’s face, which is sort of bizarre because he hasn’t “appeared” for nearly two years. Two years ago I saw him once, right before he was confined underground in a claustrophobic coffin for the rest of eternity. But I still see his face everywhere. The eyes that used to be so big I called him Bug-Eyes when we were younger, his uneven but undeniably adorable dimples that appeared when he flashed his famous smirk, his chocolate brown eyes with a warmth that enveloped you like a thick blanket. I really wish those features could be actively moving again, not just stationary stones plastered on every tree trunk, newspaper, and mailbox. He is gone, and these people just want to get our hopes up again.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.