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stop me if you've heard this one before
there is a man on the corner of my street
who gave me a bottle of bleach
and told me if i drank it, i'd finally feel clean.
but i gave it back to him, and went home to take a shower.
because i am almost happy,
and i do not want to mess that up by
chugging bleach or fingering knives or thinking too much
about that man who turned my insides cold
from inside of his car.
because this has to be happy.
this has to be what happy feels like.
it feels like god gave me a vodka bottle
filled with nature and people and oceans and deserts and seas,
cause see, it feels like i'm drunk on life.
i have this nervous habit of scratching holes in my skin
and my mother says it's because
i'm trying to find something beautiful inside me.
she said i need a psychiatrist.
my friend asked me if i needed itching crème.
i keep laughing about stuff that's probably not funny.
i don't want it to rain anymore.
used to, i liked the rain,
because if i squinted, all the lines would be blurred.
now, i
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criss-crossed veins for the trigger girl
"you're not okay."
"I'm fine."
"no, you're lying. i can tell. everyone has a trigger."
"What's mine?"
"you smile."
she's walking around in circles
and trying to pick up her broken pieces, but they're
not fitting like they used to,
something's damaged beyond repair.
"Why are you doing this to yourself?"
"because i've forgotten what it feels like to heal."
she regrets not cutting deeper, when she sees the life
still running through her veins, and her parents asleep
on the hospital chairs.
she comes to school the next day with a bandaged hand
and blue eyes that seem a bit dimmer.
"i broke a mirror."
her cracks speak louder than her words.
she slams her locker door and almost hits the boy walking past
and if this was a movie, she thinks, they'd fall in love
but this is real life, and she is too damaged to even
love herself.
she's too broken and he's too oblivious
and it's too goddamn late, no matter how pretty h
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count to infinity before you sleep.
cause i know
there are days when
it's painful to even breathe,
your throat closing up on the knowledge
that you don't know
how much longer you'll be waiting on this
band-aided, superglued planet.
every cell in your body vying to be the next to die,
and all you have to tell them is
maybe. maybe next time.
those are the days you spend
cutting rose thorns into your palms
and clenching your fists tight around
jagged reflections and prismed rainbows.
the days you realize
we're losing so much faster than we're learning.
we're maturing faster than we're growing.
adults stuck in the bodies of kids,
moving around, making the mistakes
no one ever wants to look back on.
those are the days you realize
it's not worth living here anymore.
you're using too many burnt-like sugar words
to get what you want, a mistaken human in wolf's clothing.
your lies are becoming louder than your screams,
but if the knife fits wear it on your skin.
this is the age where you feel caught between
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there is an angel sitting next to me.
her hands are tucked like wings against each other,
each blue life-vein peeking out through
too-white, too-thin skin.
a dog-earred copy of The Great Gatsby
waits in the pocket of the seat in front of her.
any other day, that might be a metaphor,
but today it is just a lonely book
whose owner is even lonelier.
there is an angel in the plane seat next to me.
while i am closing my eyes to say goodbye to the ground,
she is opening hers wider to say hello to the sky.
her spine is bending against the metal side,
like maybe if she pushed enough she could be free.
as the plane starts moving faster and faster,
the ground tells me, “see you later.”
and as the wheels draw back into the plane’s belly,
the sky tells her, “welcome back old friend.”
there is an angel sitting next to me on a plane,
and it sounds like the start of a bad joke.
she is beautiful with spindly fingers, fly-away hair,
green eyes and a feather soft smi
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catch the stars to remember her wishes
she rememberes the little things first.
her favorite color is purple
she likes blueberry pancakes,
and leaves pennies face-up on random street corners.

even with these pieces, it feels like
a huge chunk has been torn away that she could never retrieve
there are scars on her person
she does not remember getting.
her body is a map of memories
she does not know how to read.
they say she used to be calm and collected,
but now she is hot and fiery,
and they don't know her anymore.
but that's okay, because she doesn't know herself.
she misses the sun,
and the bad school coffee and English projects
and her own bed
and the person she was before.
even though she can't remember, she misses.
when they tell her what happened,
car crash. one dead, one survived.
internal bleeding. damage to the brain.
amnesia. amnesia. amnesia.

and she doesn't remember but she flashes between images
like loose strings that she can't help pulling.
a hand to hold. a quick
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cinderella died yesterday
"burn your tiaras,
bury your fairy godmother.
it's time for you to grow up now, you're
no peter pan.
forget never never land.
stars are just burning balls of gas that are
slowly running out of time- they can't
hear your wishes.
cast aside your dr. seuss books like you will
later cast aside your bibles.
after all, a fairy tale is a fairytale is a fairytale.
life will teach you that.
grace, you were born into a role
only a very strong girl can play.
see, society will hate you for being
what they don't want to believe.
surrender your throne, your castle is under siege.
stop being fascinated with the sky,
you'll never go there.
keep your feet on the ground, and steady yourself
before you help another.
your brain is more logical than your heart,
therefore take your instructions from it.
promises can be broken as easily as can be made.
do not rely on something as weak as miracles and love-
and if you only have one piece of armor,
defend your back from the people you trust the most.
and grace
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dear girl i sit by in english
this is for you.
this is for you because you are
the dreamer of impossible dreams, and the
doer of improbable things.
this is for you, because
you balance on two legs when your life
is spinning out of control
and poetry will always confuse you.
you love fudge brownies like you love
every single guy you like.
for so long, the only thing i knew about you
was the fact that you liked reptiles in second grade.
this is for you, because
you walk around swim meets without pants
and brush your hair in the bathroom before lunch.
you're a mess of contradictions and the most
securest insecure person i have ever met.
this is for you because
i still feel guilty about the reptile thing and
you once begged me to use the line,
"you played fruit ninja with my heart" in a love poem.
this is for you because
you told me in third grade that
grace, everyone has the thing they're best at—
ady's the artist, you're the writer, mili's the smartest.
what am i? what's my niche?
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a litany of things better left unknown
I wonder if we had a time machine, how many people
would go back in time and how many people would go forward,
and if that would say anything about us or not. I know
some people are afraid of the butterfly effect: when I was
eight, a girl named Alexis stopped me from a catching
a monarch, told me I wouldn’t like the way I looked
if I had its colors dusting my skin.
I wonder if God ever stands in front of a mirror
and realizes how amazing it is that He can see Himself
when millions of people would kill to be able to.
I wonder if vampires ever get lonely when
they’re sleeping and if they ever get
self-conscious because they can’t see themselves
in a mirror. I wonder if vampires ever ask people if they’re
pretty. I wonder if God thinks He’s pretty
or if pretty’s just a human-made concept and Moses has never
had to look God in the face and say, “People love You—
that’s all that matters.”
I wonder if you can lie in heaven. I wonder
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tear the skeleton from his comfortzone
i want to build a skyscraper, seventeen stories high
and fill each floor with a story from the people who never said goodbye.
a middle child, born in 1994,
she always wanted to be loved the most
until she learned how to give a blowjob
in an alley behind Miss China’s Takeaway
at knife point.
she lost her childhood
to an ocean who always thought it was small
and never stopped pushing its borders.
he’s not sure how he’s supposed to live without her.
staring at the closed coffin, he loses the ability to want to.
it’s not fair, she thinks,
that the house creaks when she’s trying to sleep,
but when he leaves, it doesn’t make a sound.
nine months and a small coffin later,
she thinks she likes the name “amber”
“tomorrow,” he says as she passes him in the hallway—
him from math, her to english. “i’ll tell her tomorrow,”
a thought he had had for the
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saying no applies to
drugs: never boys. do not
say no to boys, they will tear out
your heart and leave your rib cage
jagged and broken, a gaping mouth
screaming its violation. they
will take your tongue, too, take away
your voice until all they can read
is yes in your actions.
this is not
a metaphor.
this is  a simple fact: do not say no to boys.
it is not in your right to deny them.
let them see the ocean of your body, let
them widen the cracks in your sidewalks,
let them warm themselves over the fire in your eyes,
until they decide to suffocate it.
do not say no, even when you are so destroyed that
your hands shake at night, holding your car keys between
your fingers like a gun with an unclear target.
even when you cannot go outside of your room:
the grass between your toes feels too much like
hades’ hands reaching for persephone, the sun’s shadow
haunting you across the concrete feels too much
like apollo relentlessly chasing after daphne.
do not say no, even when y
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sometimes i feel like a superhero
the house across from my bus stop
is a temporary funeral home, but back when the Yankees controlled the town,
it was owned by a family whose daughter rode bareback
twenty-seven miles in the middle of the night to warn her
rebel leader of a lover that the Yankees were coming for him,
the Yankees were coming, the Yankees were coming,
the Yankees are coming, John, get out, quick!
and maybe she tripped and fell,
or her red cape got tangled up in her stirrups and ideals,
because by the time she rode into the neighborhood,
the houses were already on fire, children were already
crying for their mothers, and her John
was already hung up on the gate as an example
to the other rebel.
the next morning, the Yankees strung her
dead body up next to his.
no one ever told them life wasn't fair.
maybe that's why when i first tasted lemonade
i spat it out onto the ground,
and didn't drink it again until i was twelve years old,
and feeling biter and sour and in need of a little sugar.
when i was little,
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i don't have a dog
1. i get up at ten.
this is an accomplishment.
by eleven, i’m awake enough to miss you.
to be honest, that part never goes away—
but eleven is when the typewriter grows fangs
and threatens to swallow everything i am
if i don’t put a name to the feeling. even the dog’s
tail does not wag. he keeps watching the door.
he will not even touch his food until the sun has
set as deep as possible. he is giving you every
chance to come back.
i try to tell him there’s no use,
that you will never come back.
but dogs don’t understand things like that,
don’t believe in the concept of ‘never come back’.
they believe in the sound of a key turning a lock
and the inevitable stomping of feet on the welcome mat
no matter how many times they’ve heard
the car engine start and the crunch of gravel as it pulls away.
2. this must be what missing you feels like.
i have lived lifetimes in the minutes i keep breathing.
i keep breathing. this is an accompl
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lauryn is the best example of the reason
i like writing about people.
because i have waited too long
and now i have forgotten—
because now i do not even remember
if i spelled her name right.
lauren? laurin? lauryn?
here's the three things i remember
about the girl in the back of my spanish class
who showed up late for video rehearsals,
but pronounced español like she'd been speaking it all her life
lauryn is the only person i can
remember asking me to write a poem for her.
the rest of them just sat back and thought
that eventually i would write a poem about them
that they could steal and read.
she is the only one who has ever
wondered if i had better things to write about than her.
her sleeping bag during one of the school bonding trips
was bright yellow with a spongebob face on it.
i would know, i shared a tent with her—she woke me
up in the middle of the night because she thought
she heard something out in the woods,
and "please grace, won't you go with me?"
she carr
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Seven year old Adysen Reader
Took her mother's most fancy wine glass
And filled it with apple juice,
All the while telling me that one day,
She'd really be able to taste the stars.
"You know," she tells me, "You could jump from the
Empire State building and survive."
I tell her she's wrong, and that you'll die.
"No, no," she insists, "it's not the jump that kills you- it's the ground-
The sky just hugs you and wishes he didn't have to let go."
Ady's been able to draw since she was four,
But she hasn't been an artist till she was nine, and
Manned up enough to tell me that she really didn't
Believe in dragons, but she hopes we can still be friends.
In sixth grade, I read her the story of Icarus,
And how he fell to his death because he wanted too much
With too little.
(Spoiler Alert: We're still friends)
Ady has never been afraid of asking boys out.
She says it's better to know he doesn't like her
Then to be sitting around wondering if he does.
Two boys, two strikes out, and
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no retakes, no redos. only one chance.

this is broadway.
and this is madison bailey's dream.
my friends and i are lost boys and she's our wendy;
we call her mom and she reminds us to all to
"do your homework, adysen,"
"be nice to sydney, audrey."
"you're going to eat more than that, aren't you, grace?"
and when she doesn't understand,
she doesn't stop trying.
madison's a closeted directioner,
and i feel almost bad because she's the kind of person
to hide her opinions if it makes anyone else
feel uncomfortable.
i, on the other hand, am rude and loud mouthed
and i have a tendency of floating off into the sky
when things get too difficult to handle.
madison's a tether to all that humanity could be.
in third grade, madison called a girl a mule,
and knowing her, she probably still feels terrible
about it.
madison hardly has any favorites, because she likes
everything equally so nothing feels left out.
"i'm an actress that can't lie," she says.
"i'm a fighter
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i have spent too long loving you
like a store shutting down, slashing my prices,
hoping there’s something here you might
want to buy before i go under.
this is not your fault. i was told that loving
desperately and wholly was light years
better than loving practically, but you
have spent four years loving me like i am a siege
and you are worried that your fortress’s walls
are not high enough. i think i mean
that you love me cautious; you love me
most nights i waste hours not looking at my phone
and trying to remind myself how much i am
worth without you by my side. the numbers
never add up. maybe this is because
you have never been constant enough to be an equation.
look here, i have it on good authority
that universes exist in my skin and stars have died
so that i could live. stars have died and i have
survived and you will not be the one to make me wish
my soul was nothing but a black hole.
i can’t shake the thought that you are my novel and
i am y
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someone came out to me recently, asked me to use
his correct pronouns when we’re alone,
but says whenever i’m over at his home,
‘please could you switch back to the wrong ones? i don’t
want my parents to know who i am.’ so every time i sit at their table
for mashed potatoes and peas, i listen to a father asking
his son how her day was and i hear him start to think that he’s alone
and i watch every wrong word they say strike like an axe into
the trunk of a young sapling who’s just
starting to grow into his own.
i know they don’t know better, but it’s hard not
to hate them when i am censoring every word i say
before it comes out of my mouth, changing secrets into
dinner time conversations, because a boy does not feel
safe enough in his own skin to come clean about something
as pure as the foundation he has been built upon.
later he tells me that he wishes he were strong enough
to just tell them, but he knows his father still
has the c
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not all the way through.
i read once,
“Adults often forget
what it’s like being young
because they block it out.”
right after that:
Similar to trauma victims.
last summer, when i told that man
old enough to be my father
that i had a boyfriend,
he said “so?”
when I told him i was a minor,
he said “and?”
there are no boundaries anymore,
no barriers.
and don’t tell me
“boys will be boys”
because that doesn’t make it
don’t tell me
I was asking for it
because what I’m really asking for
is for it
to stop.
i wish i was a person
and not numbers on a scale.
i wish i was a human being
and not the cleavage in my tank top.
i wish we would stop hating ourselves.
i wish girls were allowed to say no
and eat every day
and forget to shave their legs.
i wish boys were allowed to cry
and be ballerinas
and speak up
when something hurts.
i wish we thought
we deserved more.
(and don’t tell me
none of this is sup
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weighted down
1. I am sixteen, suddenly.
I have grown up without anyone
telling me. My car keys rest heavily in
my palm. Each new college I hear about
rests heavily on my shoulders. I am
not sure how much longer I can take this,
all this extra weight of responsibilities, of choices,
of the future I’m not sure I want to have.
My skin feels stretched across my body
in places that don’t really make sense.
I still feel too big in every bad way—I’m
afraid I always will.
2. My first boyfriend tells me he
thinks I must have bits of the
universe inside of me. I try not
to get offended: I know he means to say
that kissing me is like kissing stars,
and that I hold the secrets of creation
inside my soul, but all I can think about
is how huge the universe is.
3. He breaks up with me at night.
For hours, I lean against my truck in
the driveway and look at the sky.
Stars are cold and distant,
I realize. The universe is big
and lonely.
4. Someone in my philosophy class tries to tell me
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if i could.
i’ll be honest with you;
there is a certain authority to being
a writer.
somebody said once that writers struggle with reality
because we spend all of our time
constructing our own.
the truth is, life may be impermanent
but the details are not.
time has one direction
the past cannot be revisited
and history cannot be redone
with a red pen.
what happens, happens.
we are walking permanent records
that can never be expunged.
no matter how many orphans we pull from fires
no matter how many dying children we sing to
we still made our mother cry once
we still let our little brothers find us passed out
on the front porch when we were nineteen.
imagination is our primary retreat
because there, that boy does fall in love with us
and our first kiss is not spit on our chins
or misses landing on our nose
(maybe there are waves crashing in the background)
and we say everything right.
there, we have crafted a version of ourselves
that lives perfectly.
“if i could,” someon
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ten ways this breakup isn't meant for the movies
you go out for twelve eggs and come back
with half a dozen and a new girlfriend.
you hold the eggs out to me like
six dead birds is enough of a peace offering.
i push the eggs out of your hand and stay
with my hand over your heart as i watch them
fall. if they do not hit the ground, this is all a dream.
the eggs smash on the tile and splatter
on the cherry wood cabinets, newly installed
that cost me two paychecks.
the egg whites hit your leather shoes that
you’ve worn for two months straight
because you think they make you look more sophisticated.
the egg whites hit the fridge halfway up, barely touching
the moose magnet my mother brought us
back from Yellowstone.
the egg whites come near me and i close my eyes
and open them again
because this is not a dream
you stare at the mess and look up and tell me
you’re sorry. i stare at you until you
get a mop and wipe up the broken bits of bird.
there must be irony in that for you,
because this is the last time
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emergency exits are for quitters
"you coming back?" he calls lazily from the bed. you still love me?
there are bruises on her hips, and her mouth is slick with someone else's spit.
her hair is ratty from being clawed at, and her eyes are messy
from a love that hasn't been right since winter
she leans her head against the hotel door and stares at the emergency exit map,
and its big, bright, red exe-
you are here.
(maybe that's part of the problem.)
i'm sorry. i'm not strong enough for you. you've broken me.
you've hurt me. i'm sorry, I'm sorry but
i can't love you.

"No." Stronger.
"I Quit."
"you look like an angel when you cry," he says,
catching a tear on the pad of his thumb
and she half expects him to lift it up to the light,
to see if it's real or if it's just caused by him.
they both know the answer.
he's a mess of mind games, liquid courage
and a sword of words he doesn't know the sharpness of.
he's 999 origami cranes, and she wants him to know
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welcome to the real world
1. if someone invites you back to their place
for coffee, and you only drink tea,
don’t stress:
you probably won’t actually be drinking coffee.
2. when the creepy guy from work asks you out
again and you think about accepting for the first
time because you’re sick of going home alone and
you have never learned how to say no, don’t. learn.
stand in front of the mirror until you love yourself
enough for your skin to fit snug on your body. read
about the hundreds of millions of planets out in the
hundreds of millions of galaxies and feel so crowded
that you’re about to burst all over again.
3. you’re gonna screw up.
Jesus Christ, you’re gonna screw up so bad
and i’m not talking about forgetting an appointment bad,
or spilling coffee on your boss bad
or getting into a small fender bender on the side of the interstate bad.
i’m talking about the kind of bad that ties you down
into your bed on Monday morning when you
need to go to work. th
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8 Things I Learned Before I Turned Sixteen
1. you are stronger than you think
and when you tell other people this,
do not be offended when they start talking about muscle mass.
they will not understand until they wake up
one day and are disappointed to find themselves
still breathing.
2. reading books about thin people
doesn’t make you thin
just like writing poems about happiness
doesn’t make you happy.
3. make new year’s resolutions. even if you know
they won’t last longer than the shower
you make them in, do it anyways because
you’ll love the idea of the person you were
washing off of you with the dirt.
4. you’re going to fall head over heels
over ankles over fingers in love with a boy.
this does not mean that you have any right
to keep him.
5. someone won’t always be there to tell you,
“hey, good job on getting out of bed today.
good job on going to school and doing your homework.
good job on surviving today.”
but good job anyways.
6. change your hair color. change your s
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