a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
(& 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,
[Content warning: eating disorders]
At night my hands multiply. I shift through the kitchen, pantry to fridge to hidden nook and cranny with them bared into claws, and they grow eyes and minds and greedy hearts that desire indiscriminately. Anything goes. There’s no need for nitpicking because this freedom is my right through a day played by a numbers game: simple addition is grape by grape, nice linear plot that settles my nerves, never noodles or rice (God forbid a tablespoon of oil) because that is exponential and we’ll have to start over, fresh clean slate at zero, 0, tomorrow. Zero is nice because I can add it an infinite number of times, 0 to 00000000000000, and it will be the same. This equation I’ve got down to a tee, good old 0 + the free-for-all that is night, and my stomach. Rules begone (only until dawn) and I follow my multiplying hands, their greedy eyes and minds and hearts so ravenous, so eager to gorge it’ll all have been a dream by the time I wake, memories swallowed whole beneath the uncounted, unmeasured, unbound high of leftover dim sum takeout and unthawed ice cream.
Morning and these two hands steeple in prayer to the neat square of nutrition labels. I wait for nightfall.
blessed? our hands were once intertwined over valleys
as we tongued the wisps that drizzle from the moon, fingers
twitching as our legs moved us across galaxies, running
until our stoned calves burnt like a feather in a volcano, euphoric
-drunk from the isolation we hammered into the world when the sky
was eclipsed. but we learned: night turns moon into sun, and
the dazed skies oxidize into poison they force us
you are something forged, something remade. your name is a moth
with eyes for wings, more limb than insect. you can try to carve the
letters out of the lipstick stains on the cracked bathroom mirror, but
you’ll find only yourself, dissected. eyes. lips. tongue. I’ll tell you now:
you are a combination of scavenged parts, of your past selves littering
stem to kernel
kernel to husk
peel dark shells
to find secrets
in smooth grains.
parch the rice,
then swaddle it
Oh, early mornings of twenty-ten, what must she
have looked like to you? Outside every day at
five-thirty AM, she’d stand on the concrete slab
bridging the creek that cut through their driveway
and wait alone in the dark for the bus to arrive.
[Content warning: gun violence]
it's a dying texan midnight i squint &
my grandmother glows
asleep in the corner my mother becomes
herself a little less lawyer
woman man financial
child bearer for seven hours.
oh look, more people i see
under my bald-eagle throne
of warfare and welfare
wearing their smiles backwards. eating their hands.
Every time I call Mother, I envision flashes
of the garbage bag she wears
tied around her neck,
how it crinkles each time
she brushes against
the floors of Langone.
She tries to catch
a wink of sleep each night.
[Content warning: allusions to sexual assault]
and by july, i grew tired of
beautiful boys. hearing
their delicate sonnets and
toying with their maple hair.
so it was no surprise
when i caught myself
grinning at the girl who
dove into lake erie,
beaming as i pulled the
over the top of her head, and laughing
when i cut my finger wringing it.
The woods are bare
cleaved of tangerine,
pomegranate leaves falling on already fallen leaves
in the dirt
for the Philippines
Mother lies awake in the shallows,
hair of sea foam whispering around her
limbs of islands and thinning streams. The coasts of her figure
grow a glut of green on every mountainside, out of sight
from the capital buried in her
left lung; entombed in the tessellation
of her highway skeleton.
this porch is made of dirt on the edge of a parking lot and the edge of a forest. i can touch the air as i walk through it, so sticky it is with humidity. grown-ups mill about, even stickier in their sweaty running clothes. their tanks cling to their beer bellies and their shorts can’t hide saggy skin and stretch marks. i don’t feel like looking up to see their faces; they must be aliens; they must be new neighbors.
i wade until i find an ice chest that is finally my size, with soda cans that fit me instead of waterbottles filled with wine that slip out of my grasp.
the adults bring dogs. the dogs look me in the eye when they speak to me, shaking coats that get me wet and thumping their tails against my thigh. but even these dogs will look up to the adults for instruction. i pet them and laugh because their owner is watching, and when the pair walks away i rub my slobbery hands on my shorts.
Mint green walls enfold her, dripping slowly with
Saccharine summer sweat. She feels
Her mind pouring out of her ears, but clogged like
Chlorine-heavy pool water that dwells past
Its welcome. She welcomes nothing within
These walls because no one is outside
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.
from Greek κάθαρσις, the notion of ‘release’ through drama (catharsis (sense 1)) derives from Aristotle's Poetics.
the gods speak of me in whispers
say I am selfish
because I cannot
hold this unfettered
tongue (it is a dangerous thing / child / to be this loud)
Time and again I find myself fascinated by the falsehood of memory. It seems that each detail of the past is blurred and indistinct in my mind, without a solid form to cling to, regardless of my continued determination to take a particular moment and press it precisely into the various folds of my brain.
thirteen. your street is one of the longest in the heights, but my parents take a different route this time and pretend it’s any shorter. we turn the corner your house sits on, smooth-blue and gated, and i see a flash of your loose grey dress caught in the dimness of early evening. the sky is a little lighter than your house, giving me just enough to watch your bare feet play lightly over the street and your tan fingers raise a camera to your eye. in this moment, i don’t want to go on your lake trip or even go into your house. i could sit here and watch the way you move when you think i’m not looking, the way you carry yourself like your camera solidifies your spine, all weekend long. we are a secret, but right now i let myself stare. you really are beautiful.
She came over for the first time
in the dead of winter. When I turned
my hair dryer on hot and high in
anticipation (of my expectations) (of
her expectations), the lights shut off.
I muttered a prayer to Eve, will femininity always
make a fool out of me? I painted my face
in shimmering shades of pink
it seems like all the ways
the world could end have.
sent my body screeching through
a stop sign & here i am speared
into a volcanic sky unfolding
clouds popping balloons of battery acid
streets gushing sludge stuck to my knees
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.