a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
I sauntered across the sidewalk of Dalsan Road in Jeongwan, where a stray dog rested peacefully on the bench next to the local supermarket. Rows of pine cones lined the streets, along with letters of cracked road marking paint. The breeze gently caressed my feet as I listened to the faint noises of children screaming and laughing. From a distance, I spotted the persimmon tree in front of my Grandmother’s house.
Pinedaless by Amy Miller (15, Guam)
I hate writing.
I hate how every noun needs to be fresh,
Needs to sound like a C-major scale from a world-class pianist
who just went through two divorces and five mental breakdowns,
Needs to be mellow like the heavy raindrops
even as your breath dwindles
your light lives on in my mind—
permanent like my love for you,
preserved by the ring wrapping
around my finger which once
wrapped around yours with warmth—
but now your hand is cold.
yellow-orange by Andrea (15, California)
the dim fluorescent lights noisily pulse out a yellow-orange pattern into the violent liquid night, while
i watch your jaundice yellow teeth that grin sharp & wet & sinister
carelessly frame your mouth to fill it with sordid sin:
where else but beneath the chipped skin of your lips
i'm drinking orange juice with a hint of white wine* while skipping class
because i hate everything. i'm crying while reading fairytales
about communism and i'm running
even though it's excruciating.
then (i'm not sure when, but 2020)
it was the first time i was home alone since the pandemic started
and the first time i drank beer of my own accord. i blasted my music and sat on the floor
in the dark. so what's new?
The forest is still and quiet as if nature itself has stopped to reverently admire the sky. The stars shine brighter than I have ever seen them. As I sit staring, they seem to gain color. Brilliant blues, reds, and oranges overtaking the lustrous whites. I am nothing: a wisp that will fade and die quickly. While they, those wondrous lustrous lights, will continue on and on. Burning and flaring. Shrinking and condensing. Moving and changing until eventually, they fade. All will fade until, eventually, there will be only peace. An uneasy calm washes over me at the thought. Tears well in my eyes but I push them back. I am tired, so tired.
chewing by Andrea (15, California)
what a carnal act chewing is, to turn my mouth violent around matter;
to expose my ceramic insides and flush with guilt. and God, what hubris
I must have, to revolve the sun around my tongue and not swallow,
The Beach by Isabella Waggoner
The sun seems brighter now,
The air seems warmer.
The birds were louder then,
The wind blew more.
I forget how the salt from the ocean burned my eyes,
Or how it made my skin dry.
The taste so potent it is hard to forget.
The sun colors my hair a brighter blonde.
I remember feeling at peace,
but it seems better now than it was before.
cycles by. Andrea (15, California)
the ocean calls out my name in its hushed song; the waves
breaking and bending over crested shore to return to primordial origin, while i return
again to the look on your face as i grasped for what was left of my skin and bones; rotting,
all rotting away; rotting to begin anew, like fertilizer in overgrown soil; the bone-dry dirt
Playing House by Sydney Kelly (21)
When they’re not home
The house becomes a chance
To be a world ahead
A chance to hold you
And love you
And live us
[Content warning: domestic abuse and violence]
I know you better than you do yourself
Happy clean pictures don't do you justice
The polished mirror doesn't show how you look
The true charm is through the blurry screen
Teary eyes knows what it has seen
I still think about Louise from time to time.
Indeed, at dinner tables I do talk about my three years at art school in a reminiscing tone. How it paved my art dealing career, how I met Lisa Lee, how I was best friends with Justin L. Kohler, or how I was invited to Sophia Monroe’s party. But to be honest, I was a terrible student who learned nothing there but how untalented he was. My creative pieces were at best tedious, if not pathetic, and my attendance record sad to read. I never regretted going there, though. I did have fun, my instructor’s fame did facilitate my career, and I did meet Louise. I wouldn’t say she was pivotal to my life or something like that, but I do think about her from time to time.
No Clemency by Cathy Shang (17, China)
Did I write myself too softly instead of deranged?
There are no qualms between devil and divinity,
for I am either God or a Fool.
And though the soap I wash with
is scented Milk and Honey,
these hands are certainly not holy.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a parent. Imagine that you’re pushing your child in a stroller down the sidewalk. Now, imagine a man you’ve never seen before approaches you and your child. You have never met this man before. In fact, you have never even seen this man before, nor have you ever heard his voice, but he approaches you. He points to your child and says, “Your child is disgusting and sinful and broken, and I am the only one who can fix it. All you have to do is worship me and do everything I say. And if you don’t, I will burn you and your child alive.” How would you react in that situation? Would you agree to worship him and do everything he says? Would you turn and run in the opposite direction? Would you call the police?
i’m not pretty. my face is too wide, my nose too big, and my hair is far too weak to take
but once upon a time my words were enough. if i picked up the pen and let my hand
go wild it was enough. peeling off the chains on my tongue was enough to make them
smile and nod. when i first opened my mouth, it could fight invisible dragons without a
There's something so… perfect about a pattern. Something that seems almost universal, or basic. Fundamental. Interlocking lines making shapes, and more shapes, a thousand squares and triangles and parallelograms interwoven and completing the order of some higher being. They keep me grounded. Away from the substance and unnecessary complexity. Parallel lines bring calm and perpendicular ones strength. In here, I can lie down and watch the patterns swirl along the stones, geometries churning like shadows cast from a great distance. In here, I can breathe unfettered and pour my life into the patterns. There is nothing but what is inside. The simplicity of a straight line keeps the rest at bay.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.