Young Writers Project: Rebecca Orten & Narges Anzali

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve, and connects them with authentic audiences in newspapers, before live audiences, and online. YWP also publishes an annual anthology and “The Voice,” a digital magazine with YWP’s best writing, images, and features. More info: youngwritersproject.org or contact YWP at sreid@youngwritersproject.org or (802) 324-9538.

This month Rebecca Orten, 14, of Middlebury, and Narges Anzali, 14, of Weybridge, wrote these poems in response to a general writing prompt.

 

The persistence of memory

 

Legacy

 

On my notebook, nestled in the corner

among glued-on stars, are the words

“second law of thermodynamics.”

 

It means, literally, that entropy always increases.

It implies that one day the very last star will run out of

nuclear fuel, and everything, anything,

will cease to exist.

 

I chose to have those words there as a

reminder of my impermanence.

That simple scientific law

turns the pages back to sun-drinking trees in my hands, and my hands back to dust.

 

What I’m trying to say is: I don’t need a legacy.

 

I don’t need my name up in lights.

But I would like it in the wind and sea salt and dandelions, so burn me when I die.

 

I don’t need my name to go down in history.

The infinity before and the infinity after anyone speaks it out loud will all be the same to me.

 

Legacy — what a distracting concept.

 

Don’t ever let me live my present for someone else’s

future.

Rebecca Orten

 

 

 

Tear yourself apart

 

Tell her that she’s beautiful

and watch her smile as

she devours the compliment up,

lapping at every last honey drop

on her fingers because she’s

been starved for so long,

and what is a girl without

other people to tell her

the value that she has?

 

Tell her that she’s skinny

and she will beam before

looking in the mirror and tracing

the outline of her ribs with

her paper fingers, half human,

half ghost, so thin she’s almost gone,

though hunger was never beautiful,

nor this animal eating her up from inside.

 

Tell her that she’s hot and

look at her short skirt like it’s

the only part of her that matters, and she’ll

shoot you a grin before tugging down

her dress as a sense of anxiety creeps

into her mind, because everyone knows

what happens to girls with too-short dresses

walking alone at night,

so she grips her keys between her fingers and

holds them tight.

 

Tell her that she’s being

too emotional, that she just needs to

calm down, and she will clench her fists

and slowly listen to the breath

filling up her lungs, and smile,

because girls with anger are easily dismissed,

because any sign of emotion will

get you laughed at, but be serious instead and they

will call you soulless, so she goes back

to balancing her personality on a knife’s edge.

 

Tell her that she wouldn’t understand,

and turn away so you don’t see the rage slowly

filling up her eyes until she’s almost blind,

because you could have had a mind filled

with the most beautiful things but now you’ve

got yourself an enemy who knows how

to hide all her thoughts behind a demure smile

as she stabs you in the back, because little girls

are trained in the art of lying and

sabotage from the moment they first step into a school.

 

Tell her that she’s everything you’ve ever needed

and she’ll beam like the sun, but she

won’t ever know that human beings should never

be needed like water, or food, or shelter,

for it is not your responsibility to keep someone alive,

and she should be wanted, like something sweet you

can’t quite resist, but she’ll let you

pull her further down with you because she’s been taught that that is right.

 

Tell her that she’s not like other girls

and she will feel a moment of pride, because

that’s the highest compliment you can get, isn’t it,

“You have that body of a girl, but you aren’t one,”

so she’ll try to squeeze herself into a box for you,

try to grow into all the hard edges for you, because

if she’s not like the other girls, she won’t let

herself grow soft like all the others you disdain,

and she’ll press herself in for a lifetime if she needs to

just to gain your approval.

 

Tell her,

tell her,

tell her.

 

And watch as she dies with each little word.

You will find her in the way she’s a little hunched over,

you will find her in bruised-up knuckles,

you will find her in wide and terrified eyes,

you will find her in little white lies.

 

We tear ourselves apart to satisfy

the world,

until we’re turned inside out,

hollow on the inside.

 

One day you’ll tell her she’s beautiful,

and she won’t even care,

and that’ll be the best day of her life.

Narges Anzali

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