Compiled by Charlotte Suttee
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“always me” by Jill Spero (12)
one wrong word leaves my mouth
or maybe my voice becomes snarky
whatever it was
it was me
her eyes glow with fury
my heart spikes
my stomach sinks
I go go go
the door slams
I can’t hide
I can only close my eyes
she stomps the wooden floor
passionate hate radiating through her feet
the doorknob clicks
she stands over me
I can’t apologize
she won’t forgive me
she’ll never apologize
cause it’s never her
it’s always me
“Worms’ Meat” by Jordan McCown, age 18
You thought it for the best, my friend
To try and mend our differences.
You came between me and my end
And now mistakes pay dividends.
My blood—it drips! From open scratch;
Tomor’w you’ll find me grave and cold.
This wound will my sweet soul dispatch
To realms I’m too young to behold.
But Zounds! That braggart, cat and tool!
His claws now wreak intended harm!
Why did you come between us, fool,
For I was hurt under your arm!
You Romeo—star-crossed and rosy-eyed—
You’ve made Mercutio of me, and I’ve died.
who am I to believe in something that cannot be proven upon a moments notice?
It makes me a fool.
placing faiths within silence
within the pitiful idols of ideals
give me a god I can envy.
give me a god I can hate.
give me a god I find fault in and for that I hate more
because how dare you show anyone else supposedly grander than the ballrooms my hubris reside in
though they were just as flawed and despicable as I am?
give me a god I can honor no higher than myself and though that may be low, hey.
at least I’m still number one in my own eyes.
give me a god who hates and scorns and shuts away when the light of day
burns their skin like holy water, and some days they wonder while staring at their lover, their child,
“am I really all that is good to you?”
give me a god who sees the worst in themselves.
but a perfect god,
a good and just god,
a god who is never there when they need Him to be
when we need them to be
when I need it to be
a god I can never see, but promise
give me a god who sees my disappointment when they can’t provide.
give me a god who trembles at their inabilities
who wishes they could,
but can’t figure out how to ignore
or how to stop
the disappointed stares, plaguing the look of humanity upon them.
give me a god who knows they’re worthless.
I dreamt of you before i knew who you were.
You weren’t happy. It felt like you never were
and you called me a liar.
I can’t refute the issue.
I tried to. god knows I tried to
and god knows you had me good.
how anyone could so effectively label me
will forever slip my understanding of myself,
I opened my mouth
But i woke up before i could hear my own response.
we were folding something.
i cracked a joke, he laughs.
i look at him. for some reason i just couldn’t see why the joke was so funny.
i’m not all that funny.
i focused, and for a moment i thought i caught him scowling.
maybe he realized i wasn’t all that funny.
he was looking at me. i didn’t know what else to say to continue hearing him.
i wish he would speak.
i wished i would shut up.
we continued to fold in idle banter.
but there was never a conversation.
“Leaves” by Charlotte Suttee (10)
I chase the last brown leaf down the sidewalk. The final reminder of fall, scuttling on the concrete. I’m delivering it to its brothers in the field between the schoolyard and the bus oval.
The maroon drain pipes leading down from the awning ache from the air, rusted and cold, like me. The sky, greyly lit, no sign of the sun. A few naked trees here and there.
The leaf slows, so I slow, careful to not step on it. It rocks back a couple times, hesitant to take off again.
It’s okay, I prod it quietly.
I don’t understand why the wind teases my hair and not the leaf that lies alone on the concrete tundra. It’s getting colder. I bounce a little to keep the blood flowing so I don’t freeze stiff.
Is this what it feels like to be old? Being cold all the time, I mean. Grandma is old and always cold, and she’s slower every year. She needs my help a lot.
This leaf is old and cold, frail and immobile. I hear it’s shaky voice, like Grandma.
So I pull my sickly white hands from my coat pockets and plant them on the on the gritty schoolyard that’s carried millions of travelling leaves over dozens of seasons. Here’s to one more. The coldness seeps through my jeans to my knees right as I touch them down. Out of breath.
The leaf balances on its furled edges, inches from my face. It looks a little sad lying there, stuck under the heavy winter sky. It just needs a little push, that’s all. I huff and I puff and blow the leaf forward. It scoots a few inches and sleeps.
Another few inches. I waddle on all fours closer to it and sweep one arm out like a cat at her yarn ball. The leaf goes fast, flips over, catches on the air, and floats backwards. I sit back on my heels with a sour exhale and rub my hands. Little grains of ground rain down. I stuff my useless paws back in their pockets and stand, groaning into the icy air.
Still no action. I can’t just leave it here- the field is right there! A patchy ocean of leaves and grass waits for it less than 10 feet away.
We can make it if you just work with me.
I bring my right leg back and swing it forward, parting the air around the leaf. It shivers and returns to stillness.
Come on. You’ve made it this far.
I kick again and make subtle contact, but it won’t budge. Then I’m kicking and kicking and something angry bubbles my blood, but the leaf is no closer to the field. I examine my clenched hands and pry fingers from palms. A new heat emanates through my body. I try to grab the leaf with one hand, but the a watery veil swims over my eyelids and I miss it, scraping my fingers on some dirty rock-hardness. In blindness and numbness, I grope for the leaf, but only until my ears snag a soft crunch.
I erect myself and blink away the wetness to see my catch. It’s only a small fragment, framed by leafy bits. A cold tear extinguishes my fire of aggravation, and all too suddenly, the wind steals just about all of the leaf shards and runs off with them in the wrong direction.
I cover the crumbs with my other hand, rush through the stingy air, and sweep them over the grassy finish line. I turn back to catch the rest of the leaf, but a glossiness is now frozen over my eyes. So I feel on the ground like a blind person until a crushing sorrow sits my pitiful behind down. I cry, not caring to clean away the snot spilling over my lips.
I sit like this for a long time. When I can’t feel my bottom anymore, I stand up and look at a bare tree in the field, its boney fingers pointing in all directions. One of the twigs points directly to a warm home.
With a cup of hot chocolate on my mind, I start the walk home, having already forgotten what it was that made me cry.