an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
The sonamu branch criss-crossed
the sky resembling barbed wires.
Under the trees, on their formica
countertop, the neighbors were baking
kneading dough while we lit the stove
and sautéed japchae on the pan.
What does it mean to create? Why do I write? I am not a writer.
I steep myself into this existential despair, hoping that way I may extract some impressive idea to write on. But as time passes, I realise I am more a pathetic chicken breast dinner soaking in watery marinade than a Natalie Wynn bathing in a rose-lemongrass froth of expensive ideas. Still, here I am in the back of a fridge, slowly suffocating under cling film, thinking with delusional conviction that my ideas will taste better the longer I sit in it. I will never escape this.
Marble corridors draw, magnetic, to her steel-plated soles. Bare feet
click across enameled halls, tines of heavenly jurisdiction rising,
falling, each a ringing edict. Her toes are sheathed in blade, assassins, hidden
by an ivory silk and fallen, in artful drapery, shrouding her heels from view.
Couriers bear witness to more than a delicate script on scroll, though
if they know, delay cannot be tolerated. Striking will be quick, dual wield
a proverb on each leg, and the corpse will be imbued
I. strike a match against swollen flesh, inhale
there is something melodic about the way she sips lethargies like wine : sanctimony & sorrow & serendipity never did go hand in hand but tonight you spread them on your body with burning fingers. there is something holy about her flushed fervor, her knotted forehead. you tell yourself you've won the lottery, claimed tickets at the gate of hell, and is this is this a fever dream? amongst dissonance, ebony sheets taste of the forbidden, rasp at your bare collarbones, paw at curled toes at ungodly hours. there is a certain something that keeps you alive at night, perspiring & praying. it is her. it is her.
My comrades, listen.
Never once dismiss the
Forest within whose bramble
Cradles the embers of
Within labyrinthine twigs flickers the
Burgeoning fairytales cloaked in embryo and
stark white marble walls
stare back at me blankly
the paint’s peeling off
and is crumbling down
(it settles in the corners).
the air smells of faith.
beads of sweat line my forehead
(i wipe them away with the back of my hand)
and happy tears line
my mother’s dark eyelashes.
(she doesn’t wipe them away)
Last of the moon arose under my nose. It crept through the sky, as I spun around the machine, breathing lint that hung in the air. I walked on my toes, for my feet no longer supported my weight.
My limbs yearned for the possibility of escape. I wanted to extend my hand out, let it soak the smell of grass, trees, bird dung, anything - as long as it smelt different. So, I could close my eyes, with my hand resting on my face, imagining a life that could not collapse under the weight of coal.
1 / you remember when you would drink levity mixed with gatorade and juice boxes
2 / and when curiosity would fizz with carbonated fountain sodas [free refills; try sprite mixed with cola]
3 / and you dedicate your vigils to warding off boredom and desperation [and god forbid you’ll ever drink black coffee]
4 / if you have enough of anything, the taste evaporates on your tongue
5 / you hope that existence has a long shelf life; that living won’t grow stale
he tilts left in sideways curiosity
a doll, broken-necked and under bed
an urge to grab his ears and wrench them straight -
mother tells me i’ve yet to learn sympathy
with every step, he jolts in jerky nods
unwittingly agreeing with my lambastment
Inquires the capricious heart to the voice of reason:
I gaze at dazzling dreams dancing on clouds, promising possibility,
Saturated with the hope of love and passion,
Humming to me, sweet as stardust,
But I am shackled to the dead, silent earth
Like a fallen angel forever separated from the light.
Why must you torture me so?
the man at our door talks of showers.
his gray lips foam sudsy white and steam
billows blue with every syllable
dir-ty. got-none. could-ya?
in my mind, melting droplets
rim his forehead like lace.
i think of how he’d wear them like a crown.
i think, probably drugs.
caverns stretch between my limbs / my limbs that hug the covers for comfort. /
they crawl deep, entrenched in my humidity / I can smell fatigued satisfaction after a day averagely spent on my breath. / my foot, with its awkward angles and veins that arch whenever and wherever they feel, fumbles with the sides of blank fabric, / twisting it with feigned deliberation and murmuring thanks for its life kept secret. / my thighs and calves prickly masses, / they wrestle with missing curves and stubborn caverns of their own. /
A year ago, I thought the world was ending. Anguish tainted every waking moment a bitingly toxic shade of green, as that of the sky when a tornado brews. It was inescapable; no matter any temporary joy, a hint of chartreuse always remained.
That's how heartbreak works, after all, infiltrating every last nook and cranny with a noxious smoke that slowly eats away at already chipped paint covering up everything you've avoided confronting. The varnish always cracks. The lies, the secrets, the insecurities, everything always seeps out like pus from a septic wound eventually.
Helmet forgotten, raincoat unzipped, her dark hair streamed out behind her. Her scuffed boots pedaled loosely, and her bike, two sizes too small, sped across the empty parking lot. Back and forth. She ignored the burning in her thighs. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt this unburdened. An observer, had there been one, would have seen a happy girl. Her thoughts and worries left behind, no heavy memories weighing on her shoulders.
A noise jolted her out of her momentary bliss.
[Content warning: brief mention of abuse]
as the waves of the sea crash lightly on the shore
the glittering stars above light up the midnight sky
looking for a place where they truly belong
places where populations are
displaced by a hurricane
and they have nowhere to go
If only the forbidding hands
Of the damned clock of time
Could turn in reverse
To when worry dare not lie
Upon our delicate heads
Except for the dragon whose breath is of fire
And a princess trapped in a thorn covered tower
[Content warning: death & grief]
She doesn’t want to believe it.
All the air is pressed out of her lungs; the world sinks in a blur, but not enough to make the devastating sight unintelligible. Sirens blare furiously in a monstrous cacophony as she collapses on her knees; hands shaking as she tenderly strokes her son’s hair. Upon contact she recoils her fingers as quickly as a child from a hot stove. But instead of heat it is the coldness that terrifies her; in the brief touch enough heat is stolen to turn her lips blue. She holds his hand in a cold caress.
His eyes are glassy, and he lies still like a cold kiss of death. It can’t be real. It doesn’t feel real.
Hi everyone. My name is Lina Chokrane.
That’s CHOKE like the verb, RAIN like the noun.
I get it: to someone who doesn’t speak Arabic, you may not recognize the proper pronunciation. I’ve gotten “cockrane,” “shockran," and once someone just gave up. A substitute was going through attendance, reading out names like “David Smith” and “Isabelle Sanderson” and when they got to mine, they just said “Lina” — their head tilted to the right because it was better to say nothing, then to just say the wrong thing.
What would life be like, she thought, if I could stop time?
Only a hundred pages to go, she said to herself. She hated this; researching why the printer at the office didn’t work was never what she imagined herself doing on a Friday night ten years ago. Thirteen-year-old Josie would’ve been repulsed.
Her whole life had been planned. She would finish her novel, sell it, make a name for herself and write books until the day she died. Josephine Taylor, best-selling author. She could almost see herself on the billboards and the headlines. If only she had the time to finish her novel, it would only be a matter of time before the world knew her name.
“We’re almost out of popsicles.” My daughter, Cassie, rooted languidly through the freezer.
I wiped sweat from my forehead and flipped through the mail, the paper going damp and soft in my hands. “I’ll get some the next time I go out.”
The crackle of a wrapper and the thud of her footstep responded for her.
She paused at the bottom of the stairs, gaze bored and diffuse. “What.”
“Any flavor you want?”
“Just get whatever.”
[Content warning: domestic abuse/violence]
Lalita does not know where the babies disappear to.
Amma is pregnant again. Her faded cotton sari rustles against the skin of her swollen stomach, and the glass bangles she wears have clearly become too tight on her arms. Lalita watches her as she eats her rice in the kitchen. She doesn’t know if this baby will die too, like the past two--they were twins, Amma told her--did. Her grandmother says people go to Heaven when they die if they are good. Lalita hopes she’ll go to Heaven someday too, a heaven filled with sweetmeats, fried fish and chicken curry.
To my heart—
Why is it never enough?
Never completely whole.
There’s always some piece I’m chasing after.
I wish I could blame you
For the anger and pain and fear
[Content warning: hints at depression/mental illness.]
from what she could remember,
she had never had a full year without troubles:
that Dog always followed her.
Six years old.
“what a cute kid!”
wait ‘til you hear what’s going on inside her head.
what is the point of this meaningless socialization?
the plastic playground, the play kitchen,
she didn’t see the appeal.
the other parents started to point out to their children,
“do this and that so you won’t become that kid!”
at the time, she didn’t know being herself was an insult to them.
[Content warning: sexual assault.]
I look around me. I feel my entire body falter. I’m alone. A tear trickles down my face. One more. And another, and another. I can’t breathe. Where am I? How did I get here? I’m afraid. Never in my life have I felt so vulnerable, debilitated. Never in my life do I recall feeling this way at all. I was never susceptible to fear; rather, I was apathetic, strong. I feel an urge. An inexplicably powerful urge to escape, to return. The urge surges from my stomach and leads me to release a scream of exasperation; a sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. A determination to escape. With all my tenacity, I try to push myself off the chair. It's no use. The ropes further scar my body. My wrist begins to shed blood. What have I ever done to deserve this?
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.