Day 87 – Two Sweaters

I remember the same two sweaters-
one plum and the other maroon-
that had to last the whole winter
and how it bothered me
that my old Lion King sneakers didn’t match
and how it bothered me
to think everyone would notice.

I remember being so pleased
at being allowed to invite over a classmate
and taking her to my closet
to show her my outfits
and knowing those two purple sweaters I hated
were the best I had to show.

I remember the girl who came over;
her sneakers didn’t match, either.
I don’t know where she is
but I have so many sweaters now.

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Day 68 – Two Camps

They say something is better
than nothing
even if it’s not your best-
to give at all
is to give more than
not.

When I was younger
I would’ve hated that,
I would’ve said
not to bother-
I would’ve stuck my
picket sign in the ground
firmly in the camp
which demands
everything
and kept on pretending
I could ever give it.

But I feel so old
and so grateful now,
for all the halfs and partways
I’ve been given,
all the somethings
that were better
than not.

Young Rose

Late nights into early morning,
hearts ablaze like shooting stars,
searching for a home that never came,
dashed upon the rocks and slipped away,
a young rose.

Press it in the pages of your heart
that’s cooled by now,
find it in a book that’s stored away.

But I don’t need a photo
to remember who I was
on windy days,
when I was a young rose.

Never saw it bloom like that again,
how it seems simpler now,
but roses go two ways when they are spent:

gone and remembered
or saved and forgot
and the trouble
is letting it die.

Breaking: Volunteering Voted “Biggest Waste of Time” by American Youth

A new survey of young Americans aged 18-30 shows that the act of volunteering is largely viewed as a huge waste of time. Participants were asked to rank common activities from most to least worthwhile, with volunteering earning the overall bottom spot.

“You just don’t get anything out of it, y’know?” responded one young man. “Like, what’s the point of doing something for no reason?”

A young woman agreed: “I know you’re supposed to get this warm, fuzzy feeling out of it, but I’ve got stuff to do and bills to pay. I don’t go to work to get paid in warm, fuzzy feelings. I don’t spend time with my grandma just for the warm, fuzzy feelings.”

It seems that even completing the survey was too daunting an act of charity, since participants had to be bribed with energy drinks and Steam points.

“Life is precious and we only get a certain amount of time to be alive. I want to make sure I’m prioritizing my time by not doing anything that doesn’t benefit me. I want to make sure I die happy,” said another young woman.

So if volunteering is at the bottom of the list of priorities, what’s on top? Researchers revealed that activities such as “binge-watching Orange is the New Black,” “shopping for hand-carved gauges on Etsy,” and “replaying through Ocarina of Time again” scored high on the list.

Year 2: Day 126 – Thirteen

Isn’t it disheartening to realize
that I’ll never know more than I did
when I was thirteen.
In fact I don’t know as much now
as the average teen does.
Isn’t it hard.

When I toss and turn at night,
still mulling over all the ridiculous circles
grownups make themselves run,
isn’t there all that boiling jealousy
that I’m not young, I’m not wild,
I’m not free.
And I don’t know half as much.

If I could get back the clarity of being thirteen,
don’t I think I would.
Don’t I think I’d have all the answers back,
the way I had it all figured out
when I was thirteen.

Year 2: Day 78 – Advice For Young Men From A Botanist

There’s always a chance that green leaves
which have seen no winter will not make it
into spring.

Assign strength to beauty to youth
at your own risk.

But don’t jump scale to black or brown-
the time you will invest on dead or nearly-dead
is better spent still perusing the garden.

Take some photographs but know
that reviving decay is a hobby to take up
at your own risk.

If you want to care for something worthwhile,
look for something that takes care of itself-
something in the middle of restoring itself
after it has lived through some distress.

To find a more pleasing time of caretaking-
fall in love with a flower
with yellow leaves.

52 Flashes of Fiction: Week 14 – The Vandals

It started with Anne of Green Gables, the most boring book we could find. Not one of us would lose a wink of sleep if that book suddenly vanished from existence, so we didn’t much care if nobody ever got to know what happened at the end. The librarians sure were impressed with us for a while, though. They thought we had suddenly taken an interest in works of classic literature- all of us, at the same time. Adults can really be so naive.

I don’t know whose decision it was to hire the worst handyman in the world to service a middle school, but man I’d like to know where they got that guy. We’d see him strolling down the hallways all the time in his bleach-washed jeans rolled up at the ankles, eyeing up a few of the girls and mean-mugging everyone else. I never saw him actually fix anything but I did see him smoking out by the bus ramp whenever I skipped out of class for an afternoon stroll. The first time I saw him I thought for sure he was gonna rat me out but he just glanced at me lazily like I was a passing squirrel, finished his cigarette, and moseyed back inside.

One day me and a couple of guys were hanging at the back of the library passing around a comic book with some juicy female illustrations when we heard one of the librarians call maintenance to come right away. She said Code Orange or Blue or whatever which evidently signaled something between “come kill a roach” and “come dismantle a bomb.” Shortly after, Handyman Hank came rambling in asking, “Where’s it at?” after which we sortof scooted around a shelf to peek and see what was up.

Some nerd had apparently yanked his laptop charger out of the wall so hard that he broke the plug and left one of the prongs sticking out of the wall socket. This posed a “safety hazard,” subject to immediate removal, so Hank lugged out his rubber-handled pliers and popped that sucker out. He purposely swung around and held the prong an inch away from the librarian’s face to show his job well done. I’m sure her reaction was noteworthy, but none of us were looking at her- our eyes were on the bic lighter that had fallen out of Hank’s back pocket during the swift motion.

He didn’t notice it and neither did she, but as soon as he left and her back was turned, one of us snatched it up like a coveted prize. That’s when the whole thing started- I’m not really sure how, but after we took turns flicking it from behind a shelf, somebody had the bright idea to burn pages. Not enough to raise any suspicion, just one page from one book that no one would ever notice.

We didn’t want to set off the smoke alarms, so one of us checked out the agreed-upon travesty, much to the delight of the librarian, and we met after school around the block for the ceremony. Just one page, the second-to-last page- not enough to be noticeable at first glance, but enough to totally ruin the story at the last minute.

We started doing it all the time- we’d take turns having custody of the lighter, and whoever had the lighter got to choose the book, whatever horrible piece of work they’d been forced to read against their will. Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Huckleberry Finn; all of them had their endings ruined quickly and quietly, with no outcry from anywhere. We were the censors and we were the curators, and nobody ever knew.

It’s weird to think about it now, what eventually stopped us. The lighter just ran out of fluid, and nobody even bothered to suggest we refill it. I’m not sure if we’d already been getting bored of our game before that or if we were just too lazy to keep the scheme going, but when the lighter died we all just forgot about it and went back to sneaking dirty comic books. We never even got caught.

I sometimes wonder about it though, years later. I wonder if anybody ever did complain about the burned-out pages, or if the librarian ever was suspicious of our sudden literary interests. I wonder if Hank ever noticed his lighter was missing, or if he ever sweat a little for his job, thinking that he might’ve been ratted out by whoever found it. I wonder that none of us ever went on to do anything worse than that few days of vandalism, and that several of us eventually went off to college together.

But mostly I wonder, if I can admit to myself- I wonder why we ever stopped when we could’ve kept it going forever.