Remorse for Being Young, Written in a Kroger Parking Lot

Being angry at the world has its ups and downs.
I realize this as Im leaving Kroger and
theres a guy in a torn leather jacket
crushing a Toyota with a sledgehammer.

Everyone in the parking lot has stopped to look at him.
His face is as red as the car hes beating.
Pieces of glass are flying everywhere.

And Im fifteen again.
The backyard is an empty battlefield
underneath a good October sky.
Marching ghosts in crimson uniforms
disappear in and out of smoke
as I nurse wounds
with a cigarette under a large oak tree.
The sun is bouncing off the chain-linked fence.
The air is stale and brown like a seventies movie.

Im thinking of passing trees on the highway.
Im thinking of thumbing rides all the way to New York,
sleeping like icicles underneath an overpass.
Melting by candlelight in a girls arms.
But here the hard skin of oak trees will rub your back raw
and white cigarette smoke clouds and burns your eyes.
Here Ill never know what changes when you leave.

I clutch a dirty fist and run. Im fifteen.
Im an empty battlefield.
Ill go where the marching ghosts will take me.
When I die Ill be with the trees.

Scott Miles

When You

When watching someone die, you must be very quiet. Always look down at the ground and examine your feet. Be uncomfortable and very somber. Allow your eyes to fill with tears. You will bite your lip until it bleeds, but you wont notice until you wipe your tears with your sleeve and feel the sting of the sleeve on your lips. You will see the bloodstain on your sleeve, and then you will believe. Since the woman you are watching is your godmother and your mothers best friend, go over and kiss your mother as she weeps. Hug her and love her. Watch your mothers tears roll slowly down her cheeks. Watch them fall to her shirt. Watch the tears leave large circles on her shirt and on your shirt, since she has been crying on you as well. Watch the womans teenage babies crawl on the bed beside her and stroke her hair as she dies. They pull the stringy blond hair sticking from her swollen white face. You will remember how thin her face was before, wonder if she looks healthier with her face filled out. You will start to cry again and try to hide it. Make sure you have a tissue in your hand so you wont have to keep wiping your nose and your eyes on your sleeves. Watch her girls lie beside their mama and hold her hands. She will be sleeping, and you wont want to disturb her, even though you know you cant since she is in a coma. You will want to go and hug her and lie beside her as her daughters are doing, but you will resist. You will decide instead to sit on the end of her stark white bed next to her feet in the hospitals socks. The bed will sink as you sit next to her weak body. You will regret that you hadnt seen her more, even though you lived in the same city. You will regret that you felt you should not lie beside her. That you felt that this time was for her daughters and not for you. You wonder if she felt like you were her daughter, and you decide that she probably did. You will hear her raspy breathing, and the tension will build as you wait for her father to arrive from Virginia. You will wish that you were in Virginia, instead of in this hospital room watching her die. You will look at her pale, blank face and she will looks so small. And you will jump every time her breathing stalls, even though she is hooked up to a respirator. You will place your hand on her foot, and your father will place his hand on your shoulder, and you will suddenly be aware that your mothers crying has ceased. You will hear her strong voice out in the hall, arguing with the nurse, begging to let the family stay with her as she dies. You remember that there are too many people in the room. You will look around to see pleading faces looking longingly at the pale body lying limp in the bed. They wish that there was something they could do. There isnt anything. Your mother will exclaim that this woman will die today, and you will flinch as you hear her say this. You will take a firmer hold on her foot and lay your head on the bed next to her leg. You will whisper that you love her. Wish that you had told her while she was conscious. You will wonder if she can hear you. And you will cry as her daughters stroke her hair.

Dorsey Seignious

Breathing Under Water

My parents never argue
Instead they sit side by side
On the couch, not touching
The television always on
Communicating something
They must have forgot

The evening news
Reflects in my dads
Blue irises, as my mother
Sits folding laundry
Her small fingers running
Along the hem of the shirt
He bought her for Christmas

Watching them, I remember
The time I was pushed under water
In the neighborhood pool
I could see something else
Just above the surface
That I could not reach

My lungs ran out of air
And my arms began flapping
Like a drowning bird
After a minute, I realized
How normal it felt
To be deprived of oxygen
And I wondered if I could live this way,
Just beneath the surface
Breathing under water.

Lindsay Greer


Alex sat behind me in math. Sometimes Id lend him one of my pencils, and when I got it back, the eraser would be worn down to a nub, his nervous teeth marks scattering the wood with shallow dents. His fingernails were always grubby. It was startling to hear his voice, as he rarely spoke, and when he did it was always in short, unpunctuated sentences. He smelled like oranges
It must have been about a month or so after my brother got sick that Alex started giving me parts of his lunch. I never saw him in the cafeteria; I dont know where he went for that twenty-minute slice of time every day. But at the end of math hed shove a rumpled paper bag across my desk before scrambling out the door like he had somewhere important to go. Inside the bag would be the dessert his mother had packed him that morning: a Twinkie, a cupcake, sometimes a baggie full of gumdrops or jelly beans. Id walk home, my cheeks filled with sugar or frosting, crumpling the paper bag with his name written across it in slanted printing, throwing it at the big sycamore tree in the schoolyard as hard as I could. Walking and eating slowly, to make both last.
      The night before Eddies funeral it snowed. I fled from the house, shuffling between the sickly yellow circles the streetlights made on the ground. There was a terrible dark song in my head that I couldnt remember any of the words to. It leaned hard on my brain, and I wondered what would happen if I just exploded right there in front of Mrs. Robinsons white-capped lawn gnomes, my whole body going up like fireworks for some unannounced holiday, the sparks sizzling against the snow as they fell. I thought about all the violent things I could do with so much snow: bombard cars with white missiles, destroy snowmen, bury the town with a huge white wave.
      That was when I felt the snowball smack against my neck and slither down the back of my coat. I whirled around, expecting someone amazing: God or the devil standing there in a snowsuit and mittens, grinning sardonically at the trick he had played on me. What would he do once I saw him? Would he lift me up and carry me away from all this dark, or would he meet my nose with a right hook, delivering me swiftly in to the arms of the snowbank?
      Alex stood there, shifting in his oversized rubber boots. It was too dark for me to read his face, but I could see well enough to hit my target. He didnt look surprised when I slammed him with a fistful of snow. He stepped back a little to keep his balance but lost it instead, sliding across the white ground until he landed in a sprawl across the sidewalk. His laughter broke over me like a thousand tiny bells, but instead of crystal they were made of spun sugar that shattered into a sparking deluge.
      When our fingernails were raw from scraping snow and our throats were hoarse from laughing, we started walking. The yellow lights of the plows flickered through the blackness like steady fireflies. We stomped through the snow in silence, our breath billowing in puffs ahead of us as if we were dragons or steam engines. Standing at my front door, watching Alexs back slowly blur into the blackness, I could see our side-by-side sets of footprints, clear and deep on the sidewalk, going on forever in the snow.
      That was all.
      Later that year, his dad got a job in Sacramento. I passed by the moving truck on my bike as it rumbled out of town. The driver wore a Phillies cap and a splash of stubble on his chin. I didnt see Alex. The truck whushed by, blowing up the first few dead leaves of autumn in its wake. They fluttered against the wheels of my bike like brittle butterflies before settling on the road.
In school in the fall, there were new kids who filled up all the empty seats in the classrooms. Autumn was longer than usual, and its warmth cut into winter, making for a soggy New Years, with sidewalks still cluttered with the dead leaves that shuffled into the gutters and clogged the street drains. Winters driving rains turned to springs mild deluges, and the crocuses crept out of the ground as if to say that nothing had ever changed. But that year in math, I crossed out all my mistakes instead of erasing them, and my pencils were still dotted with teeth marks.

Kendra Levin