a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
a space for youth writing & mental health discussion
[content warning: self harm]
Our arms bulged, grotesque muscles in just-visible chunks.
Our veins danced with each push of the dumbbell,
like shovelling into panting earth.
We imagined snaring grey, jiggling worms in the dirt of the earth.
We imagined letting them crawl up the molding handle,
up our faded button ups, and down our sweat-soaked stretch marks
[content warning: eating disorder]
i’ve emerged into the town
you might call death,
of cold and austere aspect:
the clapboard houses
sewn in rows of needling teeth.
there is no excess here except
the acrid second scents of cookies,
second cake returning from sojourn
animal of an overbalanced body,
a worthless, grunting ballast.
you see this, how the poet abjures
his naive lark in eden:
a lockpicked safe—
voyeurs tucked in reflections
to turn on me my eyes,
to pin a mirror
to the lid’s inside—
I rise from the kitchen stool, staring out
into the woods where leaves swirl down
from the maple trees. Winter dangles
from the sky, growing ice on the Hydrangea
flowers I’ve watered and grown. Above me,
the sun blurs between a misty cloud, casting
shadows around the house. Brown boxes
wrapped with duct tape crowd the floor,
isn’t it funny how i was promised that paper memories were invincible, but yesterday they wilted in the summer heat? how promises made in youth don’t last? how grandma gave me origami cranes and simpler things, fairytales, metaphors, carved into asphalt & strung in intervals along the lining of my cranium—one, two, three—
My limbs feel cold, soggy, like half-
raw oats. Grumbles should claw
from my stomach, tugging at shirt
and skin, but there’s only silence.
Her body bled into the ground,
I’m told, crumbling like run-over
(waves crashing, wind whistling, sound of ocean spray, collision with midnight)
I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it. The unraveling. The scorned breath of the ash tray, the pooled black dripping from its sides like god, broken-hearted in the almond tree mistaken for a movie theater. But this is how we danced, our teeth born to sea, bodies sprawled against the wet part of the sand, singing the song of our mothers' broken heels.
Near Kallang, a man’s dress tills
above his shin where he can no longer
hide his mosquito bites, the X’s
etched on them, an imprint of the man
he met earlier. The paillettes
on his sleeves rattle onto the ground,
becoming the piths of reeds that mount
you know, it eats away at you feet first
slowly I’ve stopped wanting to dance in my room
I used to bite my hand to stop the crying before my
mother rounds the corner my birthmark like a tooth
[content warning: self harm, blood]
and the Lord said
i want to bleed out at the
corner store. deathly pallor under
He consummates this affinity
she has for disposable razors —
they’re wedded now, as though
a shock of weeping red gashes
renders them any less mismated:
My mother has a small balcony garden. It is just the typical apartment’s balcony that people use for hanging clothes, about 2 feet in length and 1 in width, railed by transverse metal and mosquito nets. But from those rigid stone tiles, my mother is determined to make it a garden like she has always dreamed of. Like how in “family” there must always be “garden”.
This is the kind of rain that falls down in sheets, the kind that makes the sky into a blank, crinkled sheet, torn by jagged bolts of lightning and ripples of thunder. The light flashes across my textbook, and I think of the way it mimics a flickering flashlight. My father’s eyes dart between the smudgy road and the cars that are but blurs of red and blue and black with windows melting like ice cream.
We take and we take until there is nothing left. And now, we have broken the world with our selfishness.
Because the sky is shattering.
Because the sun is too hot.
Because the sun is too hot and the rain is still falling. And it’s falling and it does not stop.
Because God is angry with us, with the world.
Because by the time I step out, the leaves will be on fire and it will be too late.
Because the world is coming to an end.
Because the world has come to an end and I’m still here.
The small city houses with dusty floors and visible pipes and wirings are where children are told that their flesh and bone are borrowed. Where people sing “you are our blood” as a lullaby to their children and their simple, innocent minds imbibe these words. These houses are factories where every person moves with the emblem of their company engraved in their souls. The rats and ants and cats and birds are witnesses of the auction where someone’s daughter was packed and wrapped and was sold off to someone’s son, for twenty-five lakhs and a car and some land.
My mom tells me of ancestors
who blister & burn: blazing glory
then charcoal corpses collapsed under
dirt and soil, under torn and sewn roots
like stiches in skin, under memories
soaked into the ground through eons
of rain and blood.
“And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.”
-Rainer Marie Wilke
the waterfall slips through the cliff’s jagged peaks and pools at its base. it looks the way it feels to enter a used bookstore, tiny and suffocated between slabs of brick and buildings. or a museum, in a marble room of marble statues, at dawn when nobody is around and the sun comes through the window and hits the statues in such a light where you can’t help but think that this, this is how they were supposed to be seen. it’s the moors where the poets write and the moon you see when you look out your window. the cliffs are the bracing ribcage to the lake below. it’s the beginning and end of everything.
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: 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,
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.
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
[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.
Isn’t it funny
how things never go according to plan
like how not all dandelion seeds will take root,
but wasn’t it beautiful
the way they rode the wind’s hand
and landed so far away?
Stuck in a world of our own,
Humanity was always a world away,
It was just the sea, my mother and me.
I should have listened,
The sea has destroyed us.
i find abysmal and cataclysmal solace in your solemn
beauty and revel in the sweet song
you sing to me as you perch on my
windowsill. your affections are weathered and feathered and we have become
tethered to one another, your winged embrace
constellating us into an indelible oneness.
Dishevelled low pony because an Ariana one hurt.
Eyes bald, though smoky with caffeine-sedated circles.
“You’re not like the other girls,” I muttered by your ear,
and we gagged, for we sounded like that couple.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.