a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
a space for youth writing on mental health & identity
even as your breath dwindles
your light lives on in my mind—
permanent like my love for you,
preserved by the ring wrapping
around my finger which once
wrapped around yours with warmth—
but now your hand is cold.
your pure smile will never fade
from the tarnished photographs
that will hang on the walls even
after you can’t hang on anymore,
so that i can see you in
memory until i can
see you after this life i must
bear without you.
you are falling through my fingers
but i’ll still hold onto you.
Parting the sky's night blanket stood a luminescent globe; its ivory glow intertwined with the golden ribbon from a lighthouse below; through the mouth of darkness that wrapped around the bay, the two lights danced across the dancefloor of ocean waves— their enlightening mists brushing against the sailboats with a soft shimmer. The rolling waves of the ivory moon began to whisper, creating a gentle chorus that freed the anchored ships, and guided them through the night that flooded the sky.
The glimmering streams would shine forevermore in the memories of all who saw such a sight.
Lee and his fellow Marines had the day off, now that the war in Korea finally ended. Young and drunk with gullible hope, they were eager to take a ferry to Japan for the day and explore the streets. As the ship parted from the dock, Lee drifted from his friends to stand at the edge of the crowded ship. The July air was hot and sticky with vicious sun rays gleaming against the surface of the flamboyant waves; yet, the seagulls glided across the scorching sky as if the violent heat of the sun did not exist. Lee squinted through the summer air and scanned the expansive ocean; he hoped to find fulfilment to patch the void within him, but he only found the reflection of sunlight carried upon the water's surface.
The bustling sound of the seabound passengers drew no interest from Lee— he wished for quiet so that he could hear the abundant thoughts race in and out of his head as he pondered the blue horizon. Yet, the rolling waves, the bursting crowd, and shrieking seagulls drowned the reflections that attempted to swim to his mind’s surface— washing over his efforts to pinpoint what was missing from his life. He had the soothing sway of the ferry that nursed his neglected thoughts, but he wished for more.
The ocean sprayed a mist of its salty water onto the ship, where it sizzled upon contact with the deck; while doing so, the spray also greeted Lee’s face playfully and coated the lens of his glasses with drops of the restless waves. He took the glasses off briefly to wipe them clean when out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a figure approaching him.
His gaze shifted from a vast, empty abyss to a small, stunning wonder. His eyes met those of a beautiful Japanese girl; she had thick black hair that brushed her shoulders with its loose curls and deep brown eyes that were further uplifted by her radiant smile— he forgot about the sun’s bright rays and even became convinced that he imagined the intensity of the sun’s light— for how could anyone glow brighter than a star?
Then she began to speak.
Parting from her fair lips came incoherent sounds wrapped in the sweet sound of her voice; he stood there both enchanted and confused by the encounter, and picked apart each syllable of her speech to find even a glimpse of something he could understand. But he heard nothing— because of the drowning sound of the ocean and the dominant murmur of the other ferry passengers, he understood nothing that her beautiful voice brought to his ears. All he could tell was that she was repeating the same phrase, whatever it was.
“I’m sorry but I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Lee finally said to her.
She shook her head and persisted to repeat the same message as before.
“I’m sorry but I still don’t understand.”
She looked at him for a moment with her eyebrows furrowed, then without hesitation, she turned around and left him by the edge of the boat.
Lee found himself incapable of doing anything but remaining in the same place that she left him in, standing like an anchor on the ferry’s deck. What was the meaning of this? What was she trying to say to him? The light that she brought faded away upon her absence, leaving Lee to only the company of the sun whose searing presence resurfaced. Humid air flooded his lungs as he breathed in, the thickness of it suffocating; it reminded him of his renewed solitude which he no longer enjoyed. Lee looked out to the ocean, the heat stifling the chance for any coherent thoughts except for the absurd idea that she was a mirage induced by the insufferable sunlight. Then again, it would explain her dreamlike glow.
Leaning against the railing of the ferry, he looked out into the distance and saw an island, warped by the waves of heat. From above, he heard another screech from a small cluster of seagulls; another wave of seaspray flew upward and scattered across the deck of the ferry, this time missing Lee’s glasses. At that moment, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw the same dazzling girl from moments before, only this time she had brought another girl around her age. He smiled upon the sight of her, and as he opened his mouth to greet her again, she interrupted and started to repeat the same phrase from before. As he was about to respond, the girl she had brought with her began to speak, “She’s saying ‘boat.’”
Lee looked at her, surprised by how well her English was and said, “‘Boat?’”
“Yes,” she responded, “She doesn’t speak very good English but I’ve been trying to teach her. She was trying to show that she knew some English.”
“Oh,” Lee said, “What’s her name?”
The friend smiled then spoke to the charming girl in Japanese, who nodded afterward and then spoke again, this time her speech more clear, “I’m Mitsuki.”
i am blessed to finally
of your words—
i learn from your friend
and your scattered speech that
you’re from Himeji,
a small town by the beach.
i ask about your age, you’re sixteen—
not much younger than me;
i know it’s crazy but Mitsuki,
believe me, you’re the one
i want and need.
Within a moments notice, the boat docked at the bay of the island and the passengers swarmed off the ferry to crowd the streets. Among the chaos of the transaction, Lee felt a small, soft hand grab his; he looked up to see Mitsuki with a smile that shimmered with such radiance that it almost seemed unreal. With a better sense of her voice, he understood her when she said, “Follow me.”
soft petals of pale pink and white
flutter through the sky;
we wander through the shower
of blossoms as i feel something
your hand in mine
feels so right;
i get lost in your eyes
and the pale pink and white.
Days flew by afterward; before Lee knew it, his time in Korea ended and he received orders to transfer to Atsugi— an eight hour drive from Himeji. He sent a wire to Mitsuki right after he heard.
the miles between us
and the weeks that’ve gone by
are useless tools to remove
you from my mind;
i find myself caught
in a daze and stuck
in that day
where i first felt
your hand’s embrace.
the sparkle in your eyes
doesn’t fade with time--
i can still see it just as bright.
and then a letter arrived
with words of surprise:
“i will move to Atsugi
to be by your side
I Love You.”
With every day now at their fingertips, they spent all possible moments together. Mitsuki led Lee through the foreign dirt streets under the canopies of cherry blossoms; the timeless touch of her hand fit into his like a missing puzzle piece. In the warmth of the afternoon sun, they sat in the soft dew of grass to eat and watch the river carry the flower petals sprinkled along the surface. She made everything around melt away with time when the precious sound of her laughter filled the summer air— it swept him away as if he was a mere petal and she was the flowing river.
At night, they lay under the tapestry of stars together; under the precious light of the night sky, Mitsuki turned to Lee and said with a smile, "I will never forget." She put her hand up in front of her where Lee interlaced his own hand. He then smiled as he leaned in and said, "Neither will I."
under the same sun where
i met you on the ocean,
i now take your hand to
promise my devotion;
the jewel that i give
shimmers against your ivory skin—
now that i’ve found you,
i’ll never need more again.
after months drenched with conflicts
we’ve finally made it to where i’m from—
our new home.
we arrive when the sea of
snow has come;
a foreign sight to you that
grasps your fascination.
by now, Christmas
is long gone but my mom
still wants to teach you
how to make sugar cookies.
so we drive—
the roads are icy—
we think nothing of it—
but then the car slides
and we find ourselves
The moon falls to the dark of the night; its ivory light fades into the ripples of the waves that begin to smooth upon the globe's demise— falling farther and farther, the sight of its glow drowns in the consuming horizon. The tall lighthouse flickers in the absence of its partner but it persists to wave its golden stream across the stretches of sea— until the day that it can meet the same glow of ivory again.
there are many things
that i will forget
against my will—
but my love,
you are not one.
the embrace of your hand
and the petals from that
first day will never slip away
with the rest of me;
please don’t believe that
you’re losing me,
for i will always
be yours in memory.
* = Editors' Choice work
Unless otherwise noted, all pictures used are open-source images in the public domain.