downward spiral (conversations from my junior year of high school)

  1. On a Zoom call, my Psych teacher tells me

“You’re so mature for seventeen”

Sixteen, I say quietly

And I think Jesus Christ that’s young

Maybe I let it get to my head

  1. “With these grades, you’ll have no trouble

in university,” the counsellor 

Reassures me, and I nod for her sake

Promise, I’m not gonna take an opportunity like this

and throw it back in your face

Hope that it’s true

  1. My grandpa says that “music stopped getting better after Elvis”

But we both know 

That it’s not really about the music

It’s about who he was

A zest for life you lose and can’t replace

And I think what if my good old days are already behind me?

What if it doesn’t get better than this?

He says “You’re going to do well in the world”

And I think what if he’s wrong?

What if my downward spiral has only just begun?

  1. I tell Granny about the courses I’m taking

Against my better judgment 

And she says, “That’s good, that’s really good”

Calls me a “smart cookie”

And holds my hand with trembling, bony fingers

I hug her and laugh, say goodbye 

and pretend it’s okay

  1. I’m in someone’s office

He’s tenting his fingers like a steeple as light streams through the blinds

 “All right. What grade are you in?”


“You’ve got nothing to be worried about”

Off the top of my head: student loans, scholarships, letting down everyone who loves me, climate change, housing instability

I could get to the front of the line to pay

And lose my wallet at the bottom of my bag

The bus could run early

The plane going by just a little too low could be the one that drops a bomb

People could be cruel, and unfair

They could be absolutely right in their critique

I take the piecemeal

Thank him for his time, and go

  1. “I can’t wait ‘til I get my license

I’m gonna drive to your place, pick you guys up and go”

my best friend tells me on the phone, while I’m sitting outside

Racking up long-distance fees under the outdoor light

And I say I just wish you were here

I wish I could see you more than twice a year

I wish it could feel like it used to, before everything

Got harder; before we grew up under fire

And they say “Ugh, I know”

  1. “I mean, if we’re all just gonna be stardust, it’d be nice to just know”

I’m sitting at my desk, trying to stop scrolling through my phone

And I say something about

How you’re overreacting to an uncertain situation

Putting the cart before the horse

But really what the fuck do I know

  1. You’re lying in my arms and we’re shivering

Lying on your trampoline and watching the sky get dark over the trees

I feel like all of this has aged me

It feels good to tell the truth to you, 

And I wish I never had to leave

As I watch the clouds turn pink in the sky

  1. “There’s so much I’ve missed the past two years

I’m just trying to cram it all in, and now I’m exhausted”

It’s pouring rain, and my fingers slip over the keypad

On the bank machine, and for a moment I forget to put my cash in the slot

God, I know

I am tired, like a quiet ache

And I don’t have the energy to do anything but watch

Time slipping out through the cracks between my fingers

Making a mess on the floor

Counting down to the moment I just crack and say

That I can’t fucking do this anymore

  1. “It’ll come with practise

It just takes time

Just keep trying, and you’ll get there, all right?”

But it’s so hard to imagine

A view at the end of the climb

Whatever you want to call it

But I’m tired, and fed up

After only two weeks

I don’t think that I’m cut out for this

It all goes faster in my head

I’m running on a treadmill

In search of a finish line

Then get off, broken and exhausted

And curse myself for not moving an inch

queen anne’s lace

in my head, you and i are both

nine, maybe ten years old

and the world seems bigger from down below

from long hair and crooked teeth

and we climb up the trees

i wish the air would get thin

i wish i couldn’t breathe

remember when i thought

you had a third degree burn?

but it was only queen anne’s lace

a fact i quickly learned

so we walked through the trees, and i tried

to be just like you, i tried to fit in

i always knew you’d slip away from me, i guess

it’s just a matter of when

and if you read this now, i imagine

you’d be rolling your eyes

but i still wonder about you, from time to time

ended up in your old neighbourhood

just up the street by circumstance

the white-picket fences and the neatly trimmed lawns

and no one knows you, but i thought i did

back when the differences between us

were still creeks to be hopped over

and not oceans to be crossed

call me nostalgic

or melodramatic

‘cause lately i’ve been feeling old

lately, i’ve been running my fingers 

over the pockmarked scars still left behind

from back when you were the world to me

lately, i’ve been thinking

that love never heals

it is an open wound in the back of your closet

an unfinished page you can never quite forget

and i still remember,

when we lay on the grass and it all seemed perfect in our heads

we’d be best friends forever, we’d buy an apartment 

in the city, and everything would go our way

i guess it’s easy to romanticize a time

when my feet were never sore

when my back never ached

i saw you at the skating rink, the other day

and hid my face on purpose

which goes to show, there’s not much that’s changed

i still read the books we read

and my parents still make jokes about the things we used to do

after all this time,

i still don’t know what to say to you

losing faith

i’ve been toughing it out

for most of this year

trust me, it’s not a good thing to do

i’ve been biting back the bitter thoughts

that surface, no matter how hard i try 

to be nice, and agreeable, to nod and smile

but my thorns always seem to regrow,

and so i guess i’ll have to accept this too

i look at the stars one night, but it’s pouring with rain

i hide in the roof’s overhang, and bank on decency

tell myself

there is no mountain that i cannot conquer

if i could just want it enough

want to reach the top at any price

and maybe it’s true

but my faithless heart has grown tired

of these railroad tracks, and every time we sit down and talk

i feel so fucking old; listen to songs about nostalgia, about being sixteen

i think this is how it’s supposed to be

i lie on the ground, i look up at the vines

and i talk to my friends, my voice like a sinking stone

i’m fishing at the bottom of the pond

through leeches and silt looking for my keys

but the longer i look, the more they shift in my mind

it’s normal

it’s natural

it’s just a part of life

i’ll pull my heart out of my chest

i’ll try, real hard

and i’ll start all over again


august is coming all too soon,

with its rotted poppy-stalks and its apocalyptic skies

i’m told it didn’t used to be this way

but i can’t remember anything

but heat domes and ice baths

lukewarm saltwater lapping against my toes

i can’t slow it down,

i can’t stand in its way

i can’t break the ground i walk upon

and command it

to just give me one more day

august is wilting, all too soon

the lazy-days and panic attacks

the sweat trickling down my back

the carsick stomachache, i stare at a screen

i want to see it all, i want to take in the snap of twigs beneath my feet

the burn in my thighs and the words on the page

i want to follow each footstep back to its grave

i want to run as far as i can bear

but i’m running out of time, and i’m only halfway there

so i brush the dust

off my keyboard, watch the clouds dissipate and fade

in the palms of my hands, i pace back and forth

smash shit on the floor

always by mistake

because august is coming all too soon

because i’m never going to live this again

because i’m terrified, i’ll wake up one day

and wish to do it all again

portrait of a dying star

what if i woke up at 2am

to stinging in my throat?

what if i stumbled in the dark

looking for stupid things i wrote?

what if i etched meaningless words into my skin

dragged them through hell then back again?

what if i tripped, and fell, and broke my leg

what if i collapsed in front of you, pleaded and begged?

too tired to puzzle a logic

out of the words you say?

what if i did everything right, and still

couldn’t fall asleep today?

what if the foundation buckled beneath its own weight

and i stared up at the blue summer sky, my eyes heavy with hate?

what if i couldn’t breathe

through the twist and burn of my inadequacies?

what if i made the wrong turn, and i couldn’t come back

what if i fell asleep at only midafternoon?

what if i stayed here, still

my thoughts sinking like stones?

what if i everything i’d worked for meant nothing at all

what if i sat there on the front lawn as the sky started to fall?

and what if sloppy brushstrokes of paint could not capture the ache in my chest

what if i failed, even though i tried my best?