At Sunset

By: Maeve Tholden

Sand whispers around my feet,
pebbles worn smooth by age
tumble as a soft breath of ocean
which laps them up.

The ocean
a rough purple gray,
its waters deep with thought
sit calm,
contemplating.

The sun
twists joyfully
playing with its own colors,
laughs
from pale citrus pinks
to fiery, writhing golden reds
that sink slowly into the ocean

I settle onto the silent
beach
watching as the world
falls into Night’s
open arms.

Maeve Tholen lives in Alna, Maine and is 13 years old. She enjoys playing music, caring for plants, and running. Maeve has recently discovered a passion for photography and hopes to incorporate that into her dream of fighting for social and environmental justice around the world.

 

 



The Girl Who Cried Wolf

By: Qianhui Ma

“And when on the third day, the boy cried wolf again, the villagers answered no more.
But this time, the wolf really came. The villagers never ever saw the boy again……”
“That silly boy,” you giggled as your nanny closed the book and put us to bed.
“Silly,” I nodded along, “he must have regretted it so bad.”

I remember we were in third grade when the teacher introduced us to the infinite repeating decimals. I didn’t really understand. You explained to me that it was like the merry-go-round we rode in the parks every Saturday, the same thing just repeating and repeating and repeating. And somehow that reminded me of us. Of how things always repeated between us. Of how every time we had a quarrel, you would run off, throwing a huge fit and shouting that it’s the end of our friendship. And of how I would always end up apologizing, until we eventually made up and went back to being best friends like nothing ever happened. Except it did, over and over again. And each time, I grew a little more tired.

And then came that day after school, at the gate, when you said those words again with such determination. But that day, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t run after you as I always did. I just watched your ponytail swinging as you sharply turned away. I watched as you gave the kickstand of your bike a decisive kick, one hand steering the handlebars, the other slinging your backpack over your shoulder. I watched as you leaped onto the bike with a motion of smoothness, like a wild bird gliding across the waters, without a trace of reluctance for leaving the northern land behind.

The sun was dazzling that day, obscuring your figure as you threaded in and out of the shadows and light patches on that little road running along the northern side of our school. Maybe it was the sun, burning the pavement too hot, as my feet grew restless as I stood on the concrete ground. Something inside me wished to run after you. But I bit my lips and forced the urge away.

For once, I wanted you to stop for me.

Just once.

My heart started to pound without my permission. I could see the wheels of your bike spinning round and round, which made me dizzy. There was never so much distance between us. I clenched my fists, and the cuffs of my shirt soaked with the sweat of my palms. But my feet wouldn’t budge as if they were locked in place. I could have run, at any moment, and I knew you would have stopped for me if only I chased you. But I didn’t. And you didn’t either. I just stood there and watched, slowly, as the sight of you mingled into the patch of greenness at the far end of the road, and then you disappeared.

Later, I told myself that I accomplished something that day. That I stood up for myself. But then, I couldn’t help but feel uncertain, as I walked home for the first time with no one by my side.

“That silly boy,” you said, as your nanny turned off our light.
“He must have regretted it so bad,” I said.
But it is only now, that I begin to wonder,
Did the villagers feel regretful too?

 

Qianhui Ma is a high school junior from Beijing, China and she is 17 years old. Besides reading and writing, she also loves spending time with children and engaging in strange dialogues with herself in the shower. As someone who has to take long subway rides to school, her favorite pastime is making up stories for strangers on the subway. In the future, she plans to work in the field of education and dreams of traveling around the world by train. A version of this story was first published in The WEIGHT Journal, June 12, 2020. https://www.theweightjournal.com/post/the-girl-who-cried-wolf-flash-fiction-by-qianhui-ma. 



No Leaf, Much Love

By: Ga Sung Mab

I am the prickly cactus in California,
leafless and isolated, in this barren land.
No birds nor lizards come to lay in range for comfort.

There is nothing to offer.
What’s the benefit of being near me?
The bane of my existence, my spine
is a thorn to their side, longing
to be an emerald agave. No one
picks to be with a pickle prick.

Suddenly, a strange, yet new pleasant feeling,
I noticed what was eating out of me.
Harris hawks in a hole
bearing what is to be their young ones.

It was different, being able to be relied on
and to help mature them.
At least I know, I’m theirs.

Ga Sung Mab is 18 years old; He lives in Bellflower, California.  He loves painting digitally which led to his dream of becoming a visual developer at some entertainment industry. He loves hanging out with his friends and family and always looks forward to doing some crazy shenanigans with them.



As Equal

By: Julia Coopersmith

Bang Bang Bang

I’d say
It really would be quite a celebration

Being treated
As one
As equal

But
Bang
We are not as one
Not as equal
Treating human beings like
Contaminated unworthy animals

We should not live in a world where this is acceptable
The violence has to stop

Bang Bang Bang
Dead faces
I’ll never forget
Blood soaked bodies

While white people are profiting
Made to feel “safe”
But if you look around, nobody is safe right now

Bang
A car full of police
Attacking black men
Again

Physically
Verbally

Innocent

Weapons glinting in the sun
Up and down, up and down, you bounce it in your hand

Must be one of those black gangs again
You don’t say this but I know you’re thinking it

This is not my kind of celebration

It is up to you
Bang Bang Bang

 

Julia Coopersmith is in 7th grade and lives in Seattle, WA. She is passionate about body liberation and Black Lives Matter. 



Eidolon of Memory

By: Arin Krausz

The barn’s skeleton is a hulking thing. Civilizations of termites have risen and fallen, epochs of rat kingdoms ended in starvation and even the molding straw finally dissolved into mush. You stand at the corner of its lurching frame and examine the cornerstone, trying to divine some sort of reason out of its crumbling cement. Close your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out. Remember your mother’s story of how she gave birth to you here, how your father washed you in the pig’s water trough and declared you beautiful. Imagine the reek, blood mingling with the sheeps’ wool wet from one of twenty leaks in the ceiling. You should remember something so important. But there’s nothing.

Apparently you came back often when you were old enough to walk. Spent hours staring at the expressionless animals, daring them to react. Your father would show you the scar on his knee from when the stairs collapsed on him as he dragged you from the rafters.

“See here, look what you’ve done.” And even as you both smiled, and laughed, you never could actually remember that fateful day, only knew its true nature from the bitterness in his tone and the subtle limp in his gait. How strange, to have a sin be so heavy without memory of it. To only know secondhand what a horrible person you truly are.

Your mother had given you directions, recited them slowly, in a way that’d be patronizing if you were anyone else. It took two hours of trampling uncertainty, stumbling over stones and bulging roots and all the detritus of nature, until you found the abandoned shell, practically ran into it without seeing it, because your eyes always seem to be experiencing the world ten seconds too slow, or eleven too fast.

A shadow begins to lap at your feet. You look up, and see a cloud, the only one in miles, drifting overhead. You leap out of its path with sudden urgency, tripping over the rusting frame, creating a vibration that ricochets up the rebar, making a deep sonorous ring. Fleeing one bad omen only to rush into another one. Grab your wrist and yank it five times. Compulsive repentance, curses only fixed through strange routines. There used to be a journal where you inscribed every proper counter-spell for bad luck-walk under a ladder, hop in a circle. Talk out of turn, bite your cheek until you can carve out a tiny piece. Think something cruel, pull out strands of curling hair until the pain returns propriety.

Your friends wait back at the motel, four bodies to a bed. Your lovers, too. They look to you for guidance when you barely know how to walk in the right direction. But somehow stories, far more permanent than memories, sprout where you tread, evolve as you travel.

Has any of your life really happened? You catch flashes—bright festival lights, water flowing over your head, someone’s calloused hands gripping yours. But nothing coherent, nothing solid, fragments of worlds that may be entirely fabricated. Maybe you were swapped with your true self, maybe you are a changeling made of mud and mugwort sent twenty years too late. A failure of crafting. An incidental inconvenience.

Blink, and you’ve spent hours ruminating with nothing to show for it. It’s like this every time-you try to find some clarity by going off on your own, reweaving the fraying threads of your memory, but walking the exact same path, both practically unconscious and altogether too aware of everything that you’ve told yourself shouldn’t matter. This stupid barn was supposed to fix things. Return to the beginning, complete the cycle, but all that’s left is rust and undergrowth because you are now certain your connection to this place, no, the place itself, is
dead. That’s it. Your eyes dart like silver minnows, searching the dusky air for a reply. That’s a conclusion, it’s something. And as the thought ferments, you can feel the omens of three decades crashing in on each other, the walls of the barn collapsing, one by one.

When you reach your friends in the early hours of the morning, your knees are lightly crusted with dirt and blood. You curl up next to your lovers and kiss them lightly. There is no need to rush the inevitable. It will come, soon, you feel it contracting in your chest. There’s no need to fear the omens anymore.

 

Arin Krausz is 17 years old and lives in Woodland Hills, CA. Arin identifies as transmasculine, loves to work with Twine and other modes of interactive fiction, and spends most of their time with their three cats.



Garden Mystery

By: Eliana Pereira

One summer morning, 8-year-old Annie went out into the yard. She hopped on her swing. When Annie swings, the swing goes, ‘see- saw,’ and she says, “What did I see that you saw?” She then went to sit on her rock. “Hmmmm, what did I see that the swing saw?” she asked herself. “Oh, the swing saw how beautiful our garden is. I also saw that” said Annie. The garden is a lush beautiful one, with one swing and a vegetable patch with cherry trees and beautiful flowers and lots of butterflies. Annie, her 5-year-old sister Lola, and her 6-and-a-half-year-old brother Mike, all helped to make this garden. And Annie loves to surf in the grass. Did you ask “What is surfing in the grass?” I was going to explain that. Surfing in the grass is putting a plank on the grass and standing on it and then pretending that you are surfing.

Suddenly, Lola and Mike were going crazy and could not calm down. They screamed “One of our tomatoes is gone!” “This calls for us to investigate - dun dun dun,” said Annie. “I will look around with my magnifying glass, but before I do, I’ll calm you down. Take deep breaths little ones, it’s okay” said Annie. “What could’ve taken the tomato …hmm, maybe a fairy?” she asked her siblings. “I like fairies” said Lola. “Maybe a nice monster? Maybe it is furry?” wondered Mike. “Let’s continue playing” said Lola. “Yeah, I’ll surf in the grass. Let’s come back tomorrow,” Annie agreed.

The next day, more tomatoes were missing. “Okay, we have to get serious!” Annie said. She took out her nature diary. “I’ll go play,” said Lola. “This is too creepy,” Mike agreed. Lola and Mike left to play, while Annie wrote down questions. She looked down. “Oh my, footprints. Those look familiar,” observed Annie. Lola and Mike came tumbling. “You did it, Mike! You don’t like tomatoes,” said Lola. But Mike said, “No, you did it!”

“Am I seeing things, or do I see a bent dandelion,” asked Mike. “You are a great ‘seer’ Mike!” said Lola. “What does that even mean?” she asked. “Why did you say that, if you don’t even know what it means?” asked Annie. “I don’t know,” admitted Lola. “Let’s move on, okay?” said Annie. “I have a great idea.” “Idea?” Lola asked “What?” Mike asked. “Let’s use our ‘Nature diary’ to write down clues and find answers,” said Annie. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s open the book,” said Mike. “I’ll write down the clues. Lola, Mike, you go and play” said Annie. “Okay” said Lola and Mike. “Wait! Do you know what I just saw?” said Annie. “No,” said Lola and Mike. “I saw a bushy tail!” exclaimed Annie. “Let’s write it down.” “Yeah,” said Lola and Mike. “What has a bushy tail?” asked Mike. “Maybe a Fox,” suggested Lola. Annie wrote it down.

Annie had another idea. She whispered it to Mike. “That’s a great idea” said Mike. “Let’s do it!” The three children asked their mother if they could camp outside for the night. Their mother said “Yes, but on one condition. No going outside without mosquito repellent.” “Okay,” said Annie, Mike and Lola. At night, when they were camping, they looked out of the little tent window but didn’t see anything. The next night they did the same thing, but didn’t spot anything outside the window again. Annie had a new idea. “Why don’t we try it in the morning? Maybe that’s why we don’t see anything.” “Great idea!” said Mike.

In the morning Annie said, “Let’s make puppets that look like us, while we sit on a branch of a tree.” Lola, Mike and Annie made the puppets inside the house. One puppet they placed sitting on a rock. The other two were placed sitting on the grass, picking flowers. They climbed up a tree, and sat on a branch when they saw something move toward the tomato patch. “Quick, give me binoculars,” whispered Annie. “Here,” said Mike, handing Annie the binoculars. “Oh! Look! It’s a squirrel with a tomato in its mouth,” whispered Annie. “I’m glad we found out who has been stealing the tomatoes.” “Yep!” said Mike. “But what are we going to do about it?” “Hmmm…,” said Annie. “Let’s put nets on the tomato plant,” she suggested. “We can ask mommy to do that.” “Yeah, let’s do that now,” said Mike. “Mommy, can you put nets on our tomato plants?” “Sure,” said their mother.

From that day on, no more tomatoes disappeared.

The end.

 

Eliana is 6 years old and lives in Nanuet, New York. Her favorite color is yellow. She loves to sing and dance, and has a big imagination. One of her most favorite things to do is to go outside in the "nature world" (as she calls it).

Photo by Dominique Knobben from Pexels



The Zoo Life

By: Daniel Boyko

The lions mope around with their heads and eyes down,
feeling the cold blanket of sorrow as they nap
on the warm ground.  Their stomachs growl and pull
at their ribs, gnawing and nudging at them to turn
and gaze at the gazelle only a hundred feet north.
Except the lions’ eyes know the sharp, silver wire
that surrounds them and the electric fence that sends
prickling pains down their spines.  Every day
they see the meat lying before them, so close
they can taste it on their tongues, but the rumbles
that are a knife in their stomach will never fade away.

The large tiger paces around in circles.  The crowd,
peering in through the walls of glass, cheers when she passes by.
Tigers may sink their teeth into prey alone,
but this one no longer hunts.  Instead, she’s busy
stalking the familiar grass without ever seeing a fellow tail.

Monkeys may be known for their glistening grins,
rummaging fingers through one another’s fur,
carrying colorful toys, and taunting humans
with pink tongues poking from their lips.
But even their eyelids grow heavy and their limbs soft
entrapped in their cages.  Once, they might have gaped
at thousands of trees to climb and flourishing leaves
to swing beneath, but these primates only have
a few fake branches and a deflated red ball.

Gorillas may be bulging with muscle, but a four-hundred-
pound male merely squats on the ground, letting
his belly flop out exposed, as he scratches his chin
with his wide hands and looks off into the distance.
His eyes wander, and everyone in his troop silently nods,
knowing that he’s the thinker of the group, the philosopher.
Yet the down-curled lips and wrinkles in his drooping face
tell the pairs of staring eyes that there are more than images
of mouths stuffed with pale banana skin flashing in his mind.

Perhaps the zoo life isn’t all it’s made out to be.

 

Daniel Boyko is 16 years old; he lives in Short Hills, NJ.  Daniel is a Genre Managing Editor for Poetry for Polyphony Lit and states that, "wherever my dog is, I can't be far behind.  Daniel's previously published poem by The Telling Room is titled, "The Wisest."

 

image: Pixabay on Pexels



Icarus

By: Neah DePoe

He stood on a ragged cliff,
the morning sun
draped across his back,
a blue canvas at his feet.
The fear dribbled away.
The wings twitched on his back,
and he forgot living without them.

He looked down
before he jumped.
He lost his breath
before he flew.
The sun scorched his back,
its fingers raked his skin.
He sucked in the heat
with gasping breaths.

Feathers fell around him
like broken daydreams.
Rivers of wax
dripped down his legs.

His father screamed.

The sun wrapped him in blazing arms,
welcoming him home.
Blood smeared out of his teeth
and tears bubbled from his eyes.
He plummeted to the ocean,
blazing like a fallen star,
smiling at the beauty
of watching himself
Burn.

 

Neah DePoe is 17 years old; she lives in Cedar City, Utah.  Neah loves running on her school's track team and she plays four instruments -- piano, clarinet, saxophone and guitar!

 

image: Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels



Torn

By: Sarah Ben Tkhayet

She sips leben out of a tall glass
and honors her ancestors and traditions.
Henna embellishes the sweaty palms of her hands every holiday.
She pours her soul into the folk songs
that ring through the pure air.
She emits ululations with a new-found fervor,
her bright-red tongue, streaked with leben white,
beats against the roof of her mouth.
braiding the coarse filaments into
sturdy baskets that will carry her
household’s prized possessions.

She lives in a large city,
where tall glass buildings stand in rows,
where powerful people hold clovered dollar bills
in their white wrinkly hands.
Where big-shot pop stars are praised at sunrise
and replaced at sunset.
Where coca-cola commercials ring through countless ears,
the four same notes repeating like
the sound of a cashier checking out groceries at the local mart.
Where trained fingers brush through expensive hair,
incorporating extensions and creams
that will soon be indistinguishable from the natural streaks.

She sits cross-legged, her hand, holding a limited-edition
pop-tart, is encircled by the amulet of Fatima’s hand.
Greasy-haired, white, skinny boys laugh like creaking doors
at her faithfulness,
brandishing a bony middle finger as they beat her with words
full of evil connotations and fake memories to place shame.
Sun-kissed women covered in colorful fabric reminiscent
of old souls and goals, laugh like boiling water
at her straightened hair and western fabrics.

A yellow popsicle in a quivering hand serves as a white flag,
but the locals are blind to it.  They walk with trays bearing cups of red tea
peppered with roasted almonds that sink like a troubled girl’s hopes.

Her soul swirls like a tropical storm
caught in a chasm, deep like her ambitions,
caught between world & world, like a kid between divorced parents.

 

Sarah Ben Tkhayet is 16 years old; she lives in Hong Kong.  Sarah is a French and Tunisian published poet and writer.  She writes in French and English but also speaks Arabic fluently.  In her free time she enjoys reading and writing articles about issues that matter to her.

 

image: Rahul Pandit on Pexels



Until Then

By: Jinoo Kim

Look at us run,
carefree ‘til our bony legs give out from under us or until mother’s gentle plea.
Boundless green hills and mountains may cover up the now sanguine sun.
But still, we charge. Onwards and upwards, until we cannot see.

Look at us laugh,
at a kitchen table whose structural integrity leaves much to be desired.
Where we knock our legs against these wooden pegs so much that I bloody my calves.
But still, we howl like souls possessed until our jokes become too uninspired.

Look at us sleep,
packed in so close that we can hear each other’s thoughts,
we huddle together to avoid the mosquitoes and pray for the day we’ll make those things weep.
Still, we just chat, and until the light comes, we’ll dream about what we are not.

Look at us fight,
over something I was right about, I’m sure.
The Earl Gray that I sip betrays what I’m feeling inside: a breezy January night.
But until we grow up and we are strangers once more, we’ll scowl and never mature.

When we are strangers,
I’ll run from the monsters under my bed.
And I’ll laugh ‘til ketchup spills right down my hemic leg.

I’ll sleep without dreams
and I’ll fight ‘til my plight is one I can no longer see.
But until then, I’ll wait.

 

 

Jinoo Kim is 17 years old; he lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  Jinoo loves reading books about history and is a New York Yankees fan.

 

image:Jill Wellington on Pexels



The Bride

By: Preyasi Gaur

She entered the room, adorned
with flowers;
Her limbs covered with mehndi*
Just like a canvas. 
People rushed towards her,
Complimenting her on her marriage,
Congratulating her on her beauty.
"Good God! You're like an apsara*."
"Bhaisaheb* has gotten himself a nice daughter-in-law!"
She looked around.
She had never felt so alone.
Nobody knew her.
She wasn't a woman, drowned
in jewelry,
She was fifteen.
She wanted to run away.
She wanted to conquer the world.
She looked around;
Her veil masked her.
She was chained eternally,
Her potential all lost.
As it dawned upon her,
The desperation vanished,
And hopelessness descended
In her heart.
The world lost yet another star.

*Mehndi: The art of applying a temporary decorative design to a person’s skin especially for their wedding day using a paste of dry, powdered leaves from the henna plant.
*Apsara: Hindi word for an angel;
*Bhaisaheb: Hindi word for mister

 

Preyasi Gaur is 17 and lives in New Delhi, India. A die-hard Agatha Christie fan, Preyasi is currently unraveling the mysteries of the Universe using mathematics, and science. During breaks, she is sweating it out on the badminton court, devouring political/crime dramas, painting canvases, or just practicing her Oscar acceptance speech.