participation trophy

i’m not your prodigy now, not anymore

i’m not a silver bullet, i’m just 

going on seventeen, hair pushed back

trying to cram in as many poems into autumn evenings

as the stack of books beside my bed grows higher

i’ve been trying it get more sleep

and i’m not much good at that either

it’s a thankless, never ending task

i’m not your symbol

not your poster child

not the exception to the rule

i will not feed myself into the gears of a machine

no matter how shiny, how loved

if it’s going to spit me out the other end in tears

i’m not going to fall for it

not going to tear apart my skin,

not going to hate my body

not going to bask in hopelessness 

not going to give up, for any more

than half the day

i’m gonna call my friends

i’m gonna sit on the bathroom counter, and talk until my head stops spinning

and i’m gonna turn off my bedroom light

these days, i’ve been trying that thing

where i don’t run myself dry

and i fail, sometimes

fall back into old habits, make the same old mistakes

get it done in double the time

and maybe it won’t matter in the end

maybe people will be miserable

maybe i won’t be the best, or the brightest in my grade

but i gave it everything i had in me

i fought with all my might

and then i went to bed

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

weeping summer

this summer, the trees buckle 

under the weight of september

an unwelcome guest, she comes too soon

her raindrops drip down my cheeks

and the ice-cold water only ever

gets up to my  toes

so i run as fast as i can for the horizon

in search of better days

but my limbs are not my own

as jagged tree-branches rip at my clothes

and oh god, what am i getting into?

so i try to speak, but i’m all out of air

as the commercials play on loop

and butterflies dance in my hair

and i try to find you

between messages unsent

i sit at my desk, sunday afternoon

spinning out codes on the floor

of my good old living room

i think about gods i don’t believe in

and things i’ve got to do

before i’m gone

isn’t it fun? how the things you hated

soften under a rose-coloured touch

how in the hindsight of the present,

maybe my elders knew a thing or two

i run out on the driveway

a second, maybe two

and feel the water soak through my shirt

let me be the waterfall

of bitterness and hurt

let me be careful what i wish for

let me get my dream come true

let me sit at the end of the tunnel

surrounded by light, and think

oh god, what am i going to do?

vertigo swirls around my stomach

i don’t like wind in my hair

i don’t like happenstance or wilderness

i don’t like breathing in this air

but i do, i do, i do

moth to a flame

feel the choir in your shaking lungs,

the mucus-soaked daggers in your throat

it’s so close and yet so far away

remember how it felt? remember

the way the light called to you, dizzying 

remember the people in that room, laughing and cozy and warm

remember how the flames touched your skin but you didn’t care as your cheeks melted onto the floor

as your eyes went blind in the flashing lights

it’s all inside your head

this whole kingdom you’ve built

it’s made from iron filings, a couple

magnets from the dollar store

and if you close your eyes then you are floating

on a rock, in space, and you are still trapped inside your mind

scroll through old messages and delete each and every one

vivisect each piece of yourself, present them in packages

hand-picked to please

and keep going, keep cherry-picking til your fingers are sore

keep going until you just can’t do it anymore

race toward the light and do not think where you are going

feel the weight of gravity one split second

before the crash, before the fall

before the words left unsaid squirmed in your throat

before you became someone you didn’t recognize at all

twist and turn and shift in the water, slippery skin beneath your fingertips

bite your tongue, hear the voices echo in your head

and remember a time when you didn’t know the kind of things

that will be said, and said, and said, ghost-knives cutting into skin

shrink back into old t-shirts that never quite fit

and perch on your candle on january 1

watch it burn your wings, watch it make you holy

and wish you had the strength to run

blink

today, she’s standing in the pouring rain, her jacket soaked through and clinging to her shirt, her knees covered in mud. today, she’s tired of running from it. so she lingers in the downpour, and feels the icy wind on her cheeks.

i’m getting older, and sometimes, when i look in the mirror, i see it like they do: i’m a bright young lady, headed off into the sun of some big old future that’s barely just begun.

today, she’s standing by the river, the cold water up to her knees. she’s gonna make you proud, she’s gonna let you down a hundred times, as the waves surround her, chill her to the bone. she’ll dive under the surface, and listen to the silence. feel the current drag her along.

i’m getting older, ideals fading into harsh realities, like february rain, melting winter wonderlands into long drives home. like the moment you wake up, feel the sleep roll off your eyes.

and i’m a shit liar, really, dancing circles around inconvenient truths. i spend all morning just scrolling through my phone. i could waste time; i could cough into my sleeve. i would bury my head in the sand long before i tell you what i mean.

today, she’s walking home, and her jacket’s soaked through. she’s on a boat to god knows where. blink, and the exhaustion will fade, the night will turn to day, and all your best moments will seem to fade to black again. and these precious moments will slip like raindrops down your cheeks.

close your eyes, count to ten. before you know it, you’re gonna be living it all over again.