Troubled Teen Industry by A.A. Hall
Updated: Jan 6
Your skin is wet paste sticking to a hospital wristband
Under an empty wide gaze that sees nothing.
Though I imagine how pretty you must look
With your friends at the park,
Lying on a picnic table, glassy blonde hair
Being tickled by the wind,
In a faraway time and place –
Where you’re triumphantly thirteen and void of rusty old memories,
And life is big but the world feels small, and days are new and mysterious,
Not like this.
In this chair, you are not glorious
And your memories are sharp
And your blades are dirty
And I wish I could clean them for you until you don’t need them anymore
You have been in this chair 47 times,
In 47 ways,
Once in the corner, limbs askew like a spider knocked off a window ledge
Once asking what I was writing down
You have looked at the clock only twice
Picked your arm and told secrets (eight)
Each a fragile newborn offer, like a bird
Hatched in your open hand
You have been to school six days this year
And spilled juice on your shaking legs, once
You have fought back tears 16 times,
Yawned seven, lied thrice
Three of your long hairs stay in the carpet,
A scratch in the chair leather,
And all of your silence clouds the room when you are gone,
Hanging like a heavy swollen pause.
Starting late because you are hanging onto the doorframe, stalled,
Gazing at me from an entrance, wanting to be beckoned in
I hold out my hand and the secret dissolves.
Piece of ruddy steel that you drop into my
palm, shaking shame off your fingers, and I reach up to squeeze them,
We’re okay. Start again.
A full rage in me,
At sharpness and impulse, at unfairness, at
Fragile seconds where hurt gets in your
Who are you?
Do you like you, hate you,
or feel an indifferent pity
Like you feel towards an exhausted woman yanking an insufferable child
up the dirty stairs of an afternoon bus?
Do you watch yourself
Eating a bagel alone
Laughing in a kind of ugly way at a friend’s joke
Ignoring a phone call?
Do you reach silence, or is it always loud?
Is it hard to breathe?
And when you dream
Do kid slurs and smashed plates hound you
into the dark?
Is this life too hard? Do your wants haunt your nights?
Do you try to lose your body
And leave weight behind?
Do you grieve or do you hide?
Can you scream? Can you weep?
Does the fear of pain open like a cavern for you?
Are you in this room
Or will I find you elsewhere?
"I'm a therapist who works primarily with teenagers, suicidality and self-harm. The accumulated pain, resilience, and story that can be carried into a room by the young people I see is indescribable. Therapy might be thought of as what's said in the room; for me, poetry is an attempt to describe everything else that exists in that shared space."