a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
even suicide is something i fail at (every time, every night, every fear come alive) by Anoushka Swaminathan
[Content warning: suicidal ideation]
and every night i go to sleep
and every night i awaken
and with each quickening breath i call for a God
who i have not believed in for so long
(and i wonder: did He ever believe in me?)
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?
then (i'm four i think)
all i can smell is his cologne and dirty laundry and all i can see is the pile
of stuffed animals and none of this future. he's playing his music and i know the words.
it's the first time i feel real.
now (somewhere around 2022, but that's beyond me)
i don't know what's real and what's a lie. music can't save me anymore and i'm
resorting to people who i don't know and things i don't need. reality is faltering but i
guess i decided this morning that i'm okay with that.
then (the depths of despair)
was i okay with it? we'll never know but i surely didn't accept it yet.
that was a time where i lost track of myself and all that could keep me grounded was the
devil. they say i'm religious, but i'm not sure about that anymore; either because of the
illegality or the fact that false pretenses are my purview, no longer god.
i don't believe in god or magic.
but i believe in fate.
he must be real, right? but i can let it slide if we're the only things
(creatures) that are.
now (the future)
i think i'm real.
but i also think nothing is.
so i keep drinking my orange juice*
and singing my stories
until i can find the true art
of being real.
*or maybe it's white wine with a hint of orange juice
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.
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 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.
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
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: eating disorders and self-harm]
i hate having a body.
really, i do.
and not in the way you may think.
i don’t hate the way shoulders look,
or think my feet are shaped odd,
or think my thighs are disproportionate to my hips.
[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
[Content warning: self hatred, scars, body dysmorphia, intentional starving]
I avoid mirrors now, say some with their scars, but
I crave mirrors, so I can feel pretty when I maybe am (when I don’t anywhere else)
I crave mirrors, so I can look and have someone actually look back
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.
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.
Mother always picked the seeds left behind
After The threshing to cook dinner.
It was when the flail had snapped the grains
Off the necks of sun-fried wheat
That the cold cauldron was warmed.
I’m still trying to get used to the damp stickiness that clings onto my arms and dew drops that roll down slick walls in the morning. Even years after moving here, I still expect the wintertime to bring the pinkness of swelling beneath my nail beds, the painful flaking of skin. The absence of ‘wind-colds’ is still oddly out of place, ones that smear red rashes on browned cheeks and calls for chicken bone broth with the biting tang of ginger. Instead, the humidity clings fast, climbing up the walls like stubborn vines and breathes hot air through open windows from where I work.
I came from a land of swirling, colorful paintbrush strokes
From smooth, grass fields like vast, green carpets rolled out over the
Earth From the soft, gentle twang of our flowing music, our beautiful language
From dense, diverse forests, soaring mountains, and roaring rivers
dust is what we all become.
rain falls and mist rises, ice stands firm, but the atoms cling together resiliently as they're made to shift and stretch and mold into being. they drown in each other. dust is what they all become-- bits and remnants, flakes of substance. particles can swirl in wind and breath and they are free, afloat, individual. they bend the rays of sun that crawl into bedrooms, hanging heavily in the still air. they skate over silently beating hearts and sticky fingerprints on glass. they escape through the most minuscule passageways.
I found a rubbing tine last Valentine's
bouncing under rubbish brush in the Californian
gob of a Sun. It asked: When did you last feel clean bone, hun? When
did you last pass your hand across a piercing point and
remember that Icarus
became his own grave?
as the poet relinquishes
her hold on biblical blamelessness;
grab the scalpel.
carve the line.
hold the gingham-pressed girls
tight beneath little hyacinth blooms-
fluorescent flickers inside.
[Content warning: rape and abuse]
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The water plops against the side of the bathtub again and again and again until the noise is nothing but an absent, muffled droning in my ear. The silence in my sauna seemed to strip my clothes away before I did, luring me into this tub where my tears can disintegrate into nothingness. Mere additions to a larger homologous model in which I can sink and burn and dissolve.
Sel sent me a postcard from Paris, made a phone call from Montevideo, and mailed a package from Nepal.
I wrote back to her - my fingers wrapped tightly around the wooden colored pencils she sent me last summer, the ones engraved with poorly translated Romanian phrases in gold.
And you said you wanted a house.
I was not sure what you meant by the house. I have a lovely, two-story house with potted vines wrapped around the fence. Sometimes you went to buy flowers to put in our home. And every time you came back with a bouquet of flowers, you cried.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.