a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
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.
[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.
on randall jarrell’s death of the ball turret gunner
loosed from this life
thin cradle of reality
to its rotting core
[Content warning: self-harm, suicidal thoughts]
a kid in his very last years
of school will always be some
new and terrifying phenomenon;
churning between existence and
adulthood because we know only
one of them allows you to breathe.
Begonia petals shift across the garden,
eloquent like cursive
on the page. Spring’s sweet
release. I ride the west wind. Air knows
no bounds. Root -less. Like this body.
I am told that is poetry. But I yearn for
an anchor. A hand that fits mine.
A trellis to home this vessel
My forehead was pressed against the cold window of the car. I looked up at the gray sky and tears rolled down my cheeks. Everything was wrong. The color of the sky, the streets I drove past, the faint smell of fish that lingered in the air. I started fantasizing about how I could make my escape. Perhaps I could splendidly jump off the car and hitchhike my way to the airport, and then, somehow, go back home, back to Bogotá. My chaotic fantasies were cut short by the loud honk of a passing minibus and evoked in me a single terrifying thought; today is my first day in a new school.
it left you splintered
clefts in all ten fingers,
your hands rendered ineffectual
yet still able to support a skull
so hike up your head
let me make this confession
before it strangles itself in my throat
this is the only love
i have ever known
clenched like a fist in anger
knuckles blanching white
I air my grievances in a blank room
with a woman across from me
She sits with a pen, breathing in my words
Coughing on my tone of voice
I think she knows my mind is an
abandoned swimming pool
The algae flutters on the bottom as the
warm sun beats down on the cool water
It should be beautiful growth
But it only makes me ugly
[Content warning: self-harm and suicide]
her raw, patchwork skin,
there is a burning candle, lit within ivory moon-ribs.
its wax drips down
through her sunken chest,
and when it is spent, the
undead heart will finally rest. once the flame has
filled her hollow lungs,
[Content warning: racial violence]
Hanging abandon, testament of life
look away we don’t see colors. The stench of
summer forces air into branches, rustling leaves,
up from what remains. Look towards it. Look up.
i admire her perfect hands,
seemingly sculpted by aphrodite herself.
her flawless nail polish flaunts itself
like the glaze of a pot fresh out of the kiln.
my fingers are shredded and ravaged,
providing a humorous disparity
for only the gods to laugh about.
I’m scared. This is unfamiliar territory. It is the great plains that have not yet been discovered. I am Columbus, but I have no spine. I am Lewis or Clark, but I am not as brave. I am Armstrong, but the moon is menacing.
You wait for me in the water. I fiddle nervously for you are just out of reach. You smile at me and beckon me to join you. Shall I? Will I? I fiddle again. Your sly grin is irresistible, but the water makes it so. You do not leave me by myself. You wait patiently just beyond the seam where water meets land. You ask me again. I cannot refuse.
The Bukhansan trees
let go of their autumn leaves, setting
them free from the frolic of the wind.
They spiral across the slope, colors swirling
as they fluttered in the wind, finding their way
through the wild grass. I try to catch one
what’s in a cup of tea? is it the discolored mosaic of tea leaves that lay at the bottom? is it the sensational warmth you feel as the soothing liquid sails on your tongue? the ember that burns brightly on a cold, wintry day? is it your remedy? the herbal serum that heals your soul? no, my cup of tea is different.
It was grandmother’s 70th birthday,
in the summer of 2014
at a garden in Seoul, in a family photo.
The muted strokes of white
across the sky leave
transitory patches of blue,
sunlight bleaching the soil.
There is a glass between you and all of your dreams. And up in the sky, somewhere along the stars, a smoky white trail of hubris sits. I am telling you now so you don’t forget. When you wish upon a star, it does not listen. Stars don’t grant wishes. This is the way the world works, between inklings of draught and the suffocation that comes when you lose your chest. This is the way the world forces your falter.
[Content warning: self-harm/death]
"i’m not allowed to have sharp things."
does that explain anything.
maybe it does. maybe not.
before you’re layered in baby powder,
yet to blend within.
Inside that bowl
covered in jagged rocks,
you glow, a deep turquoise
that’ll soothe me like
a cup of chamomile tea.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.