E.M. Miles, 11th - Cornwall, VT
how sweet it is that fruits have seasons
or is it that seasons have fruits?
sit beside me, pretty baby
and feel my knee against yours,
coffee and your leather jacket
the fall on campus isn’t as pretty as here, you told me
i would render the world for you to only see perfection
today i peeled an orange over my kitchen sink, juice dripping
i miss your smile,
but not any more than i long for your mouth.
K Shaffin, 7th - Maryland
The sky is crying.
Raindrops fall as we walk past.
Everyone either annoyed or upset their plans for the day are ruined.
We put on our rain coats and put on hold our umbrellas, wishing it would stop raining.
Windshield wipers are on, it just might flood.
Because the sky is crying.
CLAWS OF GRIEF
Calliope E. 10th, - Berkeley, CA
I wake up to Mom’s sunken eyes peering over me, her face creased with worry. It is then that I notice the pool of sweat I lie in. My heaving breaths are cut short by the cawing of a singular crow perched on the outside of my window. I find myself frozen in a staring contest that concludes promptly when I shudder, and he abandons his post and victoriously takes flight into the overcast, October morning.
“You had a bad dream again, didn’t you?” Mom assumes more than asks, from the terrified expression plastered on my face.
It has been five months and 26 days since the funeral since I've been in her room since I’ve cried. I figure that Mom would’ve stopped scrambling into my room by now because the crows haven’t stopped bothering me for five months and 26 days. Sometimes the dreams aren't as bad. Occasionally the little black terrors pass over my head if I hide well enough. But other nights consist of screaming as the birds reach out their claws to scrape off what I thought was thick skin, but proves to be no obstacle in their quest for my brittle bones. The worst, however, is when the crows peck out my eyes with their beaks. I can see my body being picked at, mutilated by a mass of matted black feathers and beady eyes. Last night I dreamed of the latter.
The clock reads 6:00 AM and I don't think I can go back to sleep so I decide to get up and get ready for school. I started my third year of high school one month and 23 days ago and my grades already dipped below average. The inability to sleep through a full night has most definitely contributed to this.
It doesn't take much to convince my mom I'm fine–I think her mind is more occupied with Dad and his inability to escape the sorrowful comfort of his bed–she quickly pads back down the narrow hallway to their room, leaving me to shower and change my sweat-soaked sheets.
I don't like to look in the mirror anymore because I see my sister’s face in place of my own reflection. So naturally, I shielded the mirror in my bathroom with a combination of old Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel posters.
Yohan wakes up a couple of hours later and I hear him lumbering toward our shared bathroom so I quickly slip out into the hallway in an attempt to beat him there. Instead, we collide and I steady myself on the wooden railing by the stairs.
“Are you gonna be ready to go in thirty minutes?” I ask him, peering down at his messy, jet-black hair. I try to avoid looking at my little brother most of the time because he, like me, looks exactly like Celeste, the oldest of what was once a trio.
“Yes,” he answers groggily; his dark eyes are all red and puffy like he’s been crying but I choose not to press him about it. I know my screaming scares him, just like everyone else in the house.
The local elementary school sits a 15-minute walk from our house, two blocks away from the high school, and six blocks away from the middle school. If we walk fast, Yohan and I can make it there in 12 minutes, which we often do because he takes too long playing with his Cheerios and more times than not, leave home in a hurry. That's alright with me though; I can’t wait to flee the house each morning because inside, the air hangs thick with the smell of grief.
Still, outside poses a whole new challenge as the crows have been following me ever since her funeral. They wait for me in the old maples that line our block, hidden amongst the unyielding branches, concealed by the rustling leaves that begin to turn a fiery orange around this time of year. Their watchful eyes stalk me as they perch in a murder along the telephone wires.
Today, as Yohan and I are walking to school, the fall chill feels different, and for the first time in five months and twenty-six days, there isn’t a crow in sight. The elementary school begins class earlier than the high school so after dropping Yohan off, I sit down on a wooden bench deep in the woods behind the school grounds. The ground sludges from the previous night’s rain and little white mushrooms germinate from the ground. A sudden, quiet rustling in the vegetation startles me, and out flies a singular crow, dark as night. He lingers on the rotting backrest and begins to speak to me.
“She is here if you want her to be,” the crow’s voice is a low scratch of a sound. This time I do not run from him, I stare into his curious eyes not daring to flinch.
“How do you know?” I ponder.
It is then that I hear her voice, at first just a kiss on the back of my neck, then growing louder and louder until her melodic tone envelopes the area. I look down at my scuffed boots and peer into the puddle that had not been there before. Gazing into my own reflection for the first time in months, I still see only her. But this time she is crying. Her eyes rain, spewing thick streams of tears convening at the bottom of her chin, running down her neck in a great river.
After a prolonged period of time, the voice finally ceases. I glance over at where the crow once stood, and find he is no longer there. And as I return my gaze downward, I feel wet, hot tears on my cheeks and in my lap. I am crying just like the girl in the puddle.
Sometime later, I’m not sure how much, I emerge from the woods, my clothes rumpled and caked with mud. Searching for something in the sky, I notice that the clouds have burned off revealing a tremendous blue. It is a beautiful day to mourn.
Apple Tree Accident
Carmichael Crespo, 11th - Newbury Park, CA
He sat in the window of the monastery staring at the barren landscape below. From here he could see a cart of fruit had been knocked over in some accident with an automobile. The driver and the fruit vendor were shouting at each other.
What none of these people would ever know was one apple rolled down a hill and into a stream outside a small house. Next to this steam was a rickety homemade dock where a man liked to sit and fish. He saw the apple tumble into the stream and thought, if cleaned, it could make a good snack. So, he rolled up his pants to his knees and leaned his fishing rod against an oak tree. The water was warm and smooth, rushing calmly past his legs. He plunged his arm in and grabbed the apple. Only after sitting back down on the edge of the dock did he really look at it and notice the large black spot on it. After a moment of consideration, he tossed the apple over his shoulder and resumed fishing.
Some years later this man passed away and his home was inherited by his sister. She and her son moved into this house and made the town with the monastery at the top of the hill their home. A short walk, but uphill both ways from the house, was the town’s small school. This is where the son would attend first grade, then second, then third. His favorite thing in school was this one girl.
It was around this time he took notice of the apple tree growing near the creek. The dock had long since withered away into an unrecognizable, natural-looking tangle of sticks, but the fruit nonchalantly thrown over the shoulder had now produced a good-sized tree. It had yet to bear fruit, but it looked healthy. Something in the son’s chest told him this tree was important, a symbol of meaning overcoming happenstance.
By the time the boy was in high school, the tree had born generations of apples. It was no coincidence that the girl found the boy’s way of caring for this tree charming, and an interest grew.
There was one afternoon when the boy walked to the tree to collect a fresh batch of apples when a very kind and very welcome face met his gaze. They talked and laughed as they picked the apples together. Though they had been in school together for years, they had never talked like this before. It was an honest conversation, full of welcome tangents and open observations that proved their trust to each other. This became an after-school tradition, to meet at this apple tree and discuss every small detail of their days. This tradition continued throughout their marriage and parenthood. Their children ate the apples from this tree too.
The son would never know the true reason why he got to have that conversation with the girl. As a matter of fact, by the time anyone bothered to look into this, just about everyone involved in that forgettable accident was long gone.
There are people that wouldn’t exist without that tree, and the tree would have never existed if not for a peckish fisherman, who would never have had the opportunity to grab that apple out of the stream and toss it over his shoulder if the cart had not been overturned. The man in the monastery window would be surprised to hear just how important the events he witnessed that day- and every day- truly were… and are.
Students 6th-12th Grades