a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
i talked to him the other day
about what it is like to
have eyes in the back
of your head, not
because you want to,
but because you have to
These ducks should look prettier than they do
Because everyone else smiles
when they see glints of brown rice feathers, giggles
when the wood chips cuddle in the wind.
And I just sit here stranded
in the sirens.
Does it not hurt you to open your jaw?
my mother ran into you today
at the park by the lake where
we had our first bath in nature
six autumns ago and that was
the first time we had escaped
from our parent's houses for
though it was four in the evening
When Zoe stepped off the bus this Friday, the sky mirrored a baby boy’s nursery walls, if the baby hadn’t arrived home from the hospital. Water-stained stucco townhouses stood as they always did with fake rock painted over front doors, and english ivy creeping up towards the shingles. November air whipped through the 14-year-old’s chestnut hair and ruffled a small folded wad of loose leaf paper clenched in her hand. The shaky “To: Mom” written in blue-inked lines wrinkled in the wind. She checked her necklace clasp resting on the nape of her neck and started to plod home, each foot barely advancing more than three inches after the other. The gray trees that looked like the grim reaper’s fingers did little to console her somersaulting stomach.
I once scraped symbols into
my notebooks, discovered an oasis of divinity
hidden within a mess of muddled text. I felt the shackles loosen
as the words poured out. Mom cat dad hut rat. Look, see,
I’m a writer. I scrawl poems
into post-it notes when the teacher’s not
I am not the kind of girl people write stories about. I have no desirable qualities or fatal flaws, but I am prevalent. I am ordinary. I breathe air, drink half-filled dreams out of lukewarm cups, and eat when I am due for a proper nutrition break. Every day, I follow a routine, but sometimes I break it–never to the point when I am beginning to feel clumsy–and I occasionally forget to double-knot my off brand shoes. On school days, I am average but unsolvable. No bullies, no friends, no philosophical thoughts to ponder upon until the lunch bell pops the bubble
hovering over my head. When I go to the library afterschool, I take as many books off the
shelves as I can make time for and caress their spines with my fingertips, crack them open to
smell the raw memories etched on each page. I do not read any of them, and I forget their titles,
but never the textures of their unreachable worlds.
i save a seat for the new girl / vibrant anticipation / balancing atop tentative friendship / i share stories of how the last one / moved upstate through a mouthful of cheese sticks / i was wondering if you’d like to be my new best friend? / i’m bold, so are you / your promise wavers in the air between your teeth / i believe you / we’re laughing at our teacher’s joke / we make a good pair don’t we? / at lunch we swing the tether ball / you share the secrets you’ve never voiced / promise i won’t tell / your tangled hair gets wrapped up in mine / it’s all the same
Tilting platforms, swirling colors
The opening scene of a film.
Is this truly an illusion if it drowns my senses?
So I return to
I’ve found you
Ensconced in desire,
Imprisoned only by inertia
My sweat is a product of
By far the bleakest of all companions
is that of which is bitter,
pathetic, and unwavering.
A companion that will not release
I’ve always thought the American flag to be arrogant:
that there’s selfishness for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
slithering under its stripes and stars.
It demands we never kneel, dictating our flesh
to salute the service
of policing the Mexican border, demolishing Nagasaki, assailing Western trenches,
The sun chose
when I’ve stayed
(& me, a gutted fish,
retired koi borne of severed strings and dirty pennies—
tonight i unravel in the lampless dark,
splayed limp and caustic against cheap linoleum,
Ruth and I watch the leaves.
They flutter in all the various shades. Golden yellow, rusty brown, a shade of purple that seems more singed than eloquent. Our backs press into rasping rocking chairs with gaps stretched thin like old taffy, and we watch the leaves wind down stark lines and interstate roads. Sometimes, the sky looks like colorful fabric and the wind seems like sparse, invisible threads. Mom says that the falling leaves are a puppet show, worked by God.
Ruth and I watch until sweet smoke curls under our legs and the moon hangs so low we can see the glare off the tops of our heads. Ruth’s hair sweeps past her shoulders, so brightly colored that I can see it through hazy bars of lamplight. She loops it around her fingers with a grin that’s all teeth. “Shall we go to the kitchen? I smell pie.”
“I hope it’s apple,” I say.
“Well, I think it’s blueberry.”
“It’s too sweet to be blueberry,” I explain, but Ruth just shakes her head, gripping her wailing rocking chair.
“It’s blueberry,” she says. “I can feel it. It’s definitely blueberry.”
I press my lips together and look away. Dad says that Ruth is like Mom, with blonde hair and pebble-blue eyes and a voice that sings like a canary. I’m more like he is. Bony hands, seaweed hair, arms that cross and dangle like swinging branches. Our faces are acute angled jaws and bunched up lips. Mom and Ruth’s faces are loose skin and gentle curvesNat is the perfect one, the only boy. He’s tall, full of skin, and when his jaw slopes steeply, his cheeks curve like apples. He smiles with his teeth, like Mom and Ruth, and he swings his arms, like Dad and me. He watches the leaves, too.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.