a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
egg shells by Joy Chen (16, Hong Kong)
[Content warning: child abuse, violence]
You could have felt safe in your own skin.
Razor blades in your throat and nowhere to go,
dragged out by the collar
squirming and unhappy,
from the cardboard box in which you used to hide
inspired by that SpongeBob episode:
Twice Shy by Mikey Harper (16, Texas)
thirteen. your street is one of the longest in the heights, but my parents take a different route this time and pretend it’s any shorter. we turn the corner your house sits on, smooth-blue and gated, and i see a flash of your loose grey dress caught in the dimness of early evening. the sky is a little lighter than your house, giving me just enough to watch your bare feet play lightly over the street and your tan fingers raise a camera to your eye. in this moment, i don’t want to go on your lake trip or even go into your house. i could sit here and watch the way you move when you think i’m not looking, the way you carry yourself like your camera solidifies your spine, all weekend long. we are a secret, but right now i let myself stare. you really are beautiful.
Homecoming by Layla Salomon (20, Texas)
The familiar hand that
wraps around your throat,
pins you flat and pushes
breath from your body.
Even if you are
A God, there is still eternity before daybreak.
There is still no way to tell your flesh from mine, coalescing into a cityscape of
The forgotten; their children cry in your bosom and young girls fuse themselves
They say the fairest thing in life is death
but it’s a lie, isn’t it? Like “I did my
homework” or “I’ll be home by dusk”—
he was seventeen,
In the frothing marsh.
It has grown tiring to avert my gaze from dead men on bank notes;
Restraint upon casting a weightless name into the dusk,
Have three syllables swallowed by the horizon and eviscerated by a mulberry sun.
At least bathed in silt and muddy waters a broken body is validated by dregs of a forgotten sea;
I am made one with the bog, sealed by the sedges’ kiss
When the twilight melts at the tip of your
violet, you gulp
The reflections of oaks in the water
Like a greedy animal sucks at the teat of its mother
Sweet Gum by Layla Salomon (20, Texas)
I saw it there.
Perfect on the
paper skin. Red fade to
yellow fade to
Spasalia by Zoey Wen (16, New Jersey)
"Hey, Lamar, what do you think you're doing?" Daniel Clements leaned over Elias with a sneer. His slicked-back blond hair and piercing green eyes shone against the bright fluorescent lights of the classroom. In a flash, Elias’ computer seemed to materialize from his hands to Daniel’s. Daniel let out a strident laugh that echoed around the classroom. "Who learns Algebra two in tenth grade? I learned this three years ago!” Daniel leaned in and whispered, "You’ll never amount to anything in this world anyway." He tossed Elias' computer back onto his desk and sauntered out of the classroom.
[Content Warning: Parental death]
From the other side of her parent’s bedroom, the mirror glittered with possibility and promise. Eve knew she couldn’t resist her curiosity any longer and she was tired of trying. Without a moment's thought, she slowly approached the beautiful antique. Yet as it got closer, Eve noticed something peculiar in its crystalline surface. She couldn’t see her own reflection, rather, the glass omitted a cold mystical fog, shielding something in its depths. Suddenly, a cool breeze swept the room and blew her hair back over her shoulders. Eve couldn’t take her eyes from the alluding surface. At the same time, an invisible force urged her to come closer. Eve raised a hand, gently, seeking to stroke the mirror’s polished glass. Upon contact, she felt a dark shift beneath her fingertips, then, everything went black.
The silences were growing longer. He was eating breakfast. Two slices of bacon, and an egg. He stabbed his fork into the yolk and made it weep.
In the living room, his wife watched TV. The presenter’s nose was too small for his face, and he was swamped by the folds of his chin. She wore baggy clothes and no make-up. The midday sun cut soft lines across the table. It was April. It was Sunday. There was a war on. The birds were coming back out, slowly, shaking off treads from a long winter.
She came over for the first time
in the dead of winter. When I turned
my hair dryer on hot and high in
anticipation (of my expectations) (of
her expectations), the lights shut off.
I muttered a prayer to Eve, will femininity always
make a fool out of me? I painted my face
in shimmering shades of pink
[Content warning: sexual assault and sexual harassment]
You had a dream once. You were four years old, in preschool three times a week. You still cried when your mother took you to a new classroom and inevitably left you.
In the dream, two men were smoking cigarettes next to a shiny red car. They smiled at you when you came up to them. “Do you want to play with us?”
You shook your head. Mommy told you not to talk to strangers, to run when they gave you candy.
“Come on, it’ll be fun. Why don’t you join?”
it seems like all the ways
the world could end have.
sent my body screeching through
a stop sign & here i am speared
into a volcanic sky unfolding
clouds popping balloons of battery acid
streets gushing sludge stuck to my knees
We speak the story of the abandoned:
Every morning, we fill our cracked skin with metal paint
Like the tins we hold. Clang clang for the pin-money you suddenly need.
We’re they, not us - the beggars
Of the streets.
The only thing that felt real before her foot touched the pool
Was the dead leaf that licked its own reflection.
The wind was startled
And she could see it from the way it brushed her hair.
Lost rabbits wander aimlessly, towards an end with no resolution.
This I am sure of.
Moon child. That is what I am; that is what you are. Someone who reflects the light of a higher order and glows so brilliantly it must be false; someone who takes and takes and takes and shines, who forces others to gaze up at them and attain a desire they had never once seen possible.
And there is a field before you, a field filled with fog, and it is day. You cannot see any further than a step before eternity melts into an indecipherable, tangled web of droplets too small to inspect, each one a possibility you may miss. And with you are many other moon children, side by side, facing straight ahead with chins up and doubt in their eyes, and it is day and it is foggy and you have nothing to reflect.
The sun is gone.
What do you do?
frenzy on the streets,
we all just run
and we run and we run
like hamsters on the wheel
to a future far away,
at fifteen I feel like I’m barely a human. I’m
fourteen pages of tests and charts, stuck all
together with thumbtacks and flesh and a
broken signature for feet.
I waddle around some pale liminal space with my
‘poor eye contact’, show off all the tables that
scream AVERAGE until I scream about my
charming yet controlled presentation—
Let’s start with the black dress.
The lady at the checkout turned it upside down as she tried to remove the security tag pinned through the bowed collar while checking for the final time, “You like the style? Is this the right size for you?” I nodded. I did like the dress. It was one of those rare ones that fitted my small waist perfectly. It was one of those that fitted my very own, strict criteria - not too bright, not too ostentatious with pearls or glitters, and not above the knee.
A human being is like a plant, my grandmother has always told me. The root of a plant is thick and runs deep into the ground. Peony, for example, has a root of almost six inches. Unpleasantly looking its roots may be, they are something that peony flowers can never detach themselves from. Thankfully nature has evolved itself to present only the flower’s prosperous outlook to the world that, unless excavated by a botanist or a gardener, the tedious roots will never be revealed to the eye. My grandma insisted that plants never lose connection with their roots, no matter how tall they grow, and no matter how far their seed flies. From the frailest flowers to the grandest trees, nothing can survive without being nourished and stabilized by the root, unwavering in any weather.
My Ah-ma is not your superwoman
she cannot make seconds drop dead in their tracks
yet in her trade with time, we are never compromised
as items floating next to each grain of sand in a hourglass
My Ah-ma is not your superwoman
she cannot surf between soundwaves on sandcastles of anger, hate
while I drown in my emotions
she swims above on clouds in honey dripping from her golden hair
I watched the rise of sulphur smoke enthrall the cloudless sky
As it mingled with old and babe vapours--
"Like ink in water",
That's how Ma would describe it.
when the stars close
their weeping eyes,
who takes pause from shiver
to wish them good night?
when the stars open
and our blood begins to thaw,
how many will cry gratitude
before falling to rage?
sirens by Mara Daphers (18, Idaho)
the bells keep on ringing
like four musical kaleidoscopes
but blaring red, green.
symphonies you'd cry at,
sonatas you'd die at
but blaring blue, orange.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.