an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
an open space for youth writing & mental health discussion
[Content warning: self-harm]
She’s fighting it. She’s fighting it as hard as she can, trying to slip back into sleep, dark, oblivion, any place where she’s not awake. But consciousness is a restless visitor and the daylight pressing against her eyelids is very real. She’s still very alive.
A sharp pain spikes in her arms, hot as fire, and then everything — along with a headache — cascades upon her. Blood is everywhere. Her sight flashes black and white. She’s done it again.
When her ears are roughened
like processed flax, she goes
away on her annual trip - the
one no one speaks of. Along
the cobblestone paths driving
from home are small cavities,
Salmon rays splash onto a canvas of vapor:
altostratus streaks roll along the horizon.
They ride the foaming crests of the aether--
but under my camera lens, they still.
The clouds blush for the LED screen.
It’s all a game now.
If you wake early in the morning,
shut the door & measure the minutes before
the coffee maker beeps. Count the beats
between crashes, record the decibels of each
crack. Divide by five & forget
about miles; the eye is just inches away.
After C.S. Lewis
Love anything and watch
the bifurcated sword cleave its maker.
Bury the child in algae. Ethanol shrinks from linoleum squares but the glass remains.
Give away a covering of cotton. Fine teeth comb the ivy as blinds for a blank slate
Ants chew on the spinal cord and no grass grows in a velvet cage. Hear
the reeds petrify.
The crack in the pitcher—you will say
that you do not remember it, but I do.
We both know that what you say, it isn’t true.
If it was true you wouldn’t be able
to look at it even if you tried to,
but you do, you do.
Prayer pools like drool on my pillow, like fresh rain gone quiet.
Summer’s heat, dusty feet, sweating sunset frog song,
swallowing my own suppositions until I become pregnant with myself.
I took a plunge at midnight. I tossed my body into the sea,
and I watched the black water pour into my drought punctured soul.
I sincerely believe passion keeps us sane.
Lying dead in a bathtub, wet washcloth over my mouth,
I wanted to see how long I could endure torture.
We are beautiful because we are temporary, oppressed and pressed by mortality.
But I was not really dead, just struggling to breathe, to believe.
[Content warning: allusions to suicide/self-harm]
you fall from the stars with your soul light as soot and your mind heavy as a black hole. / your heart wanders into exploding galaxies / inky nothingness. / you lose yourself in the tangled remains of your ribcage, / twisting in on itself, stabbing at your lungs. / you look at me with blood smeared across your cheeks and constellations winding themselves over your skin; / my heart aches with inexplicable pain at the embers that howl in your eyes. /
“you only live once,” they say, but really, truly, that is not quite correct, is it? / we live countless times, in all of the forgotten moments that ripple through us. / we live in the whisper of the tides as they kiss the sand of the shore / live in the low rumble of the earth beneath our feet / live in the breath of the wind against all corners of the weeping sky. / we live in sunlight pooling molten gold in corners and shadows waltzing against the walls of midnight. / we live in gentle clouds and the arbitrary song of the rain as it drips against us, / live in wandering souls and drifting worlds that collide in bursts of sound and light; / all the things that words can never truly explain and humankind shall never quite comprehend crashing together to create what life holds dear to our bones. /
Tonight there’s a bloodbath of stars & the black
disemboweled sky. The naked corpse of moonlight desecrates
everything we could ever touch. You’re begging me to hang up
but I only open my other palm, slathered in red.
I’m waiting for you
to hold my hand or my heart but either way you just won’t
let go of the phone. I’m so scared that I can’t hear what you’re saying & I want you
to promise me that you’re still there, darling, are you there?
He strips himself completely and turns the shower up as high as he dares. Closing and locking the door behind him is almost an afterthought.
While he waits for the water to heat up, he taps his fingers on his bare thighs, looking anywhere but his body. He doesn’t notice that he’s digging his nails into his legs until it’s too late, until there are four red streaks running up and down his pale skin, and he just barely suppresses a sigh.
5 is pink
5 is pink. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s soft and fluffy, like a cloud torn straight out of the sky. It’s marshmallows and candy all rolled into one. She’s looked at thousands of shades of pink and hasn’t been able to find the right one. None match the 5 in her head. None match that glorious color.
She sees the 5 on her class schedule and automatically smiles.
The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live –Confucius
If Confucius was right, then my mother lived delicately, treading a tightrope as thin as the slices of her twice cooked pork.
When she ate her first American hamburger, she had complained. “Ai ya. Why is the meat so big and thick? Where is the Americans’ refinery? With a hulking piece of meat like this no wonder they all in debt. Americans cannot save.
At the cash register,
I clutch color correctors and pennies
and a fistful of stray dollars
and a “Good, how are you?” that
lolls in my mouth, wet and empty
like the oranges and greens I hold
so I will not have to explain anything
if they ask
my scraped knees are tinted with the primary colored paint
of the schoolyard. the memories have cheapened but they hurt
still, sepia-toned yet somehow fresher than morning dew.
i scrubbed at them with the bristles of dollar-store toothbrushes dipped
in rubbing alcohol, secretly relishing the burn. the scratches on my
palm disappear in the daylight, simple wounds of self-protection.
when i met you, you were a garden of
bounty where nature reigns superior and, around
you, i could lose myself in the skies kissed golden
and trees intermingled with the stars above, i could
melt into a tornado of rose petals and stars
divine; i could sink into the throes of savage passion.
He is a knotted mess of nerves
limping under the full moon.
Plans have bloomed behind his eyes
for him to fall back with the tide.
for the longest time, the years after i left us
things changed: the sweets jar was always empty.
hollow. it was a curse--every candy i tried
would taste like headlights that evening
it’s been six years since my
parents have read my writing. my
mother doesn’t mention my
poetry anymore; she hates my
selective memory. she says that i
[Content warning: mentions of self-harm, depression]
there is a mermaid in the bathroom, and her alabaster heart splays moondust on the tiles.
i find iridescent tears clogging the drain / unconsciously, my fingers reach out to clutch / beauty in its final moments, reveries / fluttering like decaying butterflies to a sky / with opened arms.
i wonder why girls have to be broken to be beautiful
and why boys wait to be fixed
by hands that can barely hold their own weight
he calls me at night and i can hear the candied, the crushed, the syrup
dripping from his lips
slurred words that shouldn’t feel this soft
but they do, and there will be time to repent when the sun comes up
if only these chipped bones would feel
something bigger than breath chafing
broken-elevator lungs, the thistles
prickling in wait under my skin.
cast a fishing line into sullied consciousness
and you’ll find shards of sea glass, ennui eroded
until it shines like something beautiful.
my prayers chant before dawn
cross shine pure like morning sun
my deep piety prompts
hands to grip like mussels
scorching breathing floating
above stubborn clavicle
weep within my wonder
Your Bible of my profanity
I. The Goldcutter
Most people remember my mother for one thing: her golden hair.
Everyone used to treat it like it was something to behold, but I’ve always thought hair was hair and that was it. Then again I wasn’t blessed with Mother’s blondeness, or her beauty for that matter, as both Mother and the other neighborhood matrons have been keen to point out.
In the slender branches of an oak tree, a small songbird alighted gracefully, the branch trembling slightly under its tiny feet. The wind whispered as the bird’s eyes darted around, scanning its surroundings. Suddenly, the bird lifted its head, letting a melody pour from its throat: four short, gentle notes, followed by a rapid trill. The bird paused, looked around, and then repeated the melody.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.