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  • Anxious Poets Society

Troubled Teen Industry by A.A. Hall

Updated: Jan 6

I.


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


II.


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.


III.


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.


An exchange:


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,

Silent,

At sharpness and impulse, at unfairness, at

Fragile seconds where hurt gets in your

Blood.


IV.


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."

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