a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
[**Content warning: self-harm, dissociation**]
i want to claw apart my skin
because something's trapped inside
(and i think that something's me)
i want to claw apart my skin, to cut it open and let myself bleed out-
not to die, but to bloodlet, somehow removing sickness with leeches and pain
because there's something trapped inside my skin and i need to let it out
I had just had one of those dreams again.
The ones where I’m stumbling through the grocery store, tossing jars of jelly and marinara sauce into my cart, only to all of a sudden round a corner. The smell never changes. It’s the same cardboard bread smell that grocery stores always have, only now all the shelves are lined with snake tails in amber decanters. I try to back away, but I get this gut feeling. It’s like in a past life, I was slithering through peat and tangled roots, and now I’m staring out at my hand-me-down corpse, but I can’t for the life of me figure out which one it is. And then the walls start closing in, and the snake-jars shake a little, and I can feel their marble eyes boring into me, saying you were one of us…
The small city houses with dusty floors and visible pipes and wirings are where children are told that their flesh and bone are borrowed. Where people sing “you are our blood” as a lullaby to their children and their simple, innocent minds imbibe these words. These houses are factories where every person moves with the emblem of their company engraved in their souls. The rats and ants and cats and birds are witnesses of the auction where someone’s daughter was packed and wrapped and was sold off to someone’s son, for twenty-five lakhs and a car and some land.
You frowned at yourself, rolling your eyes in multiple cycles as your mother blathered to your face. You looked down at your swelled toes, so your eyes neither met hers nor glanced around the beige walls. That way, you suppressed the anger and shunned her at the same time.
“Urenna! So you’re not listening to me abi?” You could hear the anger in her tone, but you didn’t care. She’d said these times without number, yet she wasn’t fatigued. It was your fault for travelling to Umuahia to see her, it was your fault for telling her ten months ago that you found out you were pregnant again.
My mom tells me of ancestors
who blister & burn: blazing glory
then charcoal corpses collapsed under
dirt and soil, under torn and sewn roots
like stiches in skin, under memories
soaked into the ground through eons
of rain and blood.
Fleshy figures carrying masquerading secrets through bone and time
Sewed up eyes hold no meaning, so tell me your lies
What is that thing that you hide in your own Pandora's box?
Flying rumours about it, strumming into your nerves aching like slow poison.
They invented me because
The real Jesus became too demanding.
It’s not about the rules, the rituals, the rosaries—
I require them too. Jesus and I both
Impose the Catechism and commandments,
[Content warning: sexual abuse, rape]
Blessed Virgin, Saint Mary
were You at Church when i
spread my Palms to gather Tithes
and lay Them by Your Side?
day by day i rushed from school
to Offer what I could to You.
When night goes, they tell
themselves: they won't lose darkness
in their finite light, the advancements
they abandon, the land they will not walk.
They will cower from the backbones of angels.
[Content warning: self-harm, suicide ideation]
I am not yet dead but
no one can save me from me
inching my way to eternity
one small step at a time.
Hourglass by Yumna Ahmad (17, Canada)
Be fickle with your time. I had come to notice for centuries the easy way it bends. Look now, through the grooves of this wooden home, at me. Falling, falling, falling.
So many of the ticks of that rounding clock are wasted away to petty wonder, fears and panic of how it will fall, frantic considerations of what could be done to make every last pebble in the hourglass worth its plunge.
I kissed the tree in my front yard.
There was no tongue, no substance behind the kiss--just my pink lips against the bark.
I traced the trunk's gentle grooves, whispering a thank you to Mother Nature, my voice lost in the night.
No, I don’t write about pretty skies or beautiful flowers,
for the sky is hardly every visible from my place and flowers do not grow in my backyard.
No, I don’t write about serene mornings at beautiful beaches,
for all one can hear in the clustered lanes of this slum are curses and cries.
I slip on my dress
Its white silk brushes
my skin like a soft sheet
Then goes on the veil
rough as a mosquito net
“And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.”
-Rainer Marie Wilke
the waterfall slips through the cliff’s jagged peaks and pools at its base. it looks the way it feels to enter a used bookstore, tiny and suffocated between slabs of brick and buildings. or a museum, in a marble room of marble statues, at dawn when nobody is around and the sun comes through the window and hits the statues in such a light where you can’t help but think that this, this is how they were supposed to be seen. it’s the moors where the poets write and the moon you see when you look out your window. the cliffs are the bracing ribcage to the lake below. it’s the beginning and end of everything.
[Content warning: eating disorders]
I didn’t give you a second glance the first time you came in. Your hair, so red that it looked as if it had been lit on fire, small beads styled into each curl like embers--I didn’t notice any of it.
Time. We think we all have it, a lot of it, when really none of us do. My alarm clock ran out of batteries and I began to wonder when the Earth would too.
[Content warning: eating disorder]
In the 6th grade he told me he loved me.
To be a pre-teen is to experience death while you are alive. The chaos of middle school hallways and the frantic commotion of trying to open a locker, could be enough for a brain to combust. Teenage girls get their periods and teenage boys experience voice cracks. Change is abundant and it started with him.
i. my dearest america-- i profess that yes, i may not be pretty but i am not exotic. america i wish i didn’t believe in otherworldly life but i can’t seem to forget how you gaze at my dark hair & sun-kissed skin like an unearthly artifact. i bury my green card that says that i am a daughter of an alien & it grows into a dandelion weed. america if you are a garden of eden i crave to drink your ambrosia from chopsticks & porcelain spoons and still taste salvation, swallow your life’s elixir in jasmine tea & rice wine and sing that i’ve lived the american dream. my dearest america i profess that i have too much longing, lying to myself that no, i am not hungry.
yours truly, a girl who spills tears over your flower boutique’s freshly cut flowers because you’ve stripped them of their elegantly tangled roots.
for my 母亲, mǔ qīn, meaning mother
Sitting before the bathroom mirror, you once told me that blood is like memory. The veins, you said, tether hindsight from one generation to another, a thread of instructional chapters meant for nothing but motherhood. My grievances are yours to relive, you explained. I hope you only see them through me, in passing.
New Year's Eve by Giya Sood (16, India)
[Content warning: anxiety]
New Year’s Eve, the end of another beginning, always seems to bring about a bittersweet sense of melancholy, an in-between phase. For some, Christmas lights still loom over balconies while, for others, it is just another regimented day. This year, instead of spending this obscure holiday in the comfort of my own home, I have been coerced by my mother to attend a soirée of sorts. Just a bitter end for me this year.
[Content warning: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and references to emotional abuse]
the concept is easy: my mother is
a smoking gun, lying on the worlds
she bought and kept, keeping her
eyes steady on my slow climb down
to her. when we talk, it is in jokes,
Over the roads in front of the Homigot,
the air is spiced with miyeok. The gritty
breath of autumn bends through the roar
-ing morning as silver quilts of clouds over
the fallen foliage and withered flowers,
drift through the blue in the sky – graying
[Content warning: mentions abuse]
The nostalgic fingertips of childhood still extend out towards me to this day, grabbing ahold of me, flooding my mind with images of how I once saw the world. I regard these brief flashes of my past with a protective tenderness. This little girl is precious to me--I want to protect the good, I want to embed those moments into time so that they may never disappear.
in which we are introduced to a flesh/ gathered in gorges and islets/ and the cherry bloom of blood/ as if to remind us that a small wound is yet/ a wound. feel/ the dull touch of scar tissue pooling under/ bruises and remember pain/ loses its efficacy the longer it stays./ see/ how the body that sees too much/ blinds itself.
The saltwater invades my nose and assaults my eyes. I let out a deep breath to blow the water out. I speed up my strokes, kicking and clawing desperately, wishing to approach the coastline. But I can’t see. I can’t breathe. A furious wave barrels towards me, crashes into me and throws my body underneath the waters again. My heart races and my chest tighten as the coldness from the water squeezes the breath out of me. I kick my legs again, trying to fight for another faint of hope. But my limbs are heavy and numb.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.