(for Phoebe Prince)
Headlines screamed your name to me. When I read the
story, I thought that you had lost your wings. You can’t fly
hanging by your neck, enclosed inside
a closet womb. I want to give you
my wings, rip all the fire from off my back and
ignite yours. Wipe the dawn with your shadow, paint the morning
with your fire. But all that I can pull from my own wings
is black feathers. I can only ignite them and
hope that the wind catches the smoke and
carries it away. Spell your name with smoke,
grieve your senseless exit with flames.
This dawn I see now is not gentle. It is
open mouthed and hell-wide, streaked with blood
like ambulances that come too late. Against that dawn,
more young boys and girls swing from the trees
like strange teenaged fruit. They swing in the wind of the
flesh-funk, cracked devour breath of Anubis. And more of them
hang from his teeth, knuckles white,
with days drenched in sorrow tied to their ankles,
waiting to die from rites of passage that paint them bruised –
Facebook blue and black fist prints –
or carve damnation into their digital walls;
and when I see it, I am propelled backwards in time.
When I was young, they used to scratch death warrants in ink
upon rusted, beige, paint-worn bathroom stalls that
school budgets forgot and janitors left for dead. This
is how they signaled the smoke of your burning: witch trials
by bathroom rumor. Never mind what colors you
really wore; you shone green skin in their eyes before
you could plead your own case. Roll your eyes backwards into fear,
run from the packs of razor blades launched by their tongues,
and maybe you could escape. I know, because
this is how I ran. In those days, I wore witch colors too. And
after a while, I began checking my own closets for books and brooms
to see if they were right.
I know that you were a writer, like me. Like I was
when I was your age. Like I am now.
I used to paint my visions onto old Apple 2e screens,
fall in love with white paper and toner ink because
I could turn them into color. I used to dream up
town gates opening past the end of my eighteenth birthday rope:
my future, lying beyond them like a glitter symphony. I dreamed that
my words would open those gates. Diskettes died, giving up the ghost
with my words in their brains. I cannot retrieve them.
Just like we cannot retrieve you.
But I can set my black feathers on fire. Their smoke signals
will reach the crows. They will
pull your broken body and soul down
from the crucifixion tree that claimed you. One of them
will carry you to the other side where Gaia will
crown you with the moon, scrub the green off your skin,
and call you Titan again. And maybe the smoke of my feathers
will blow eastward, pouring into the throats of those
who strangled you. It will spell out
your name. They will remember it. And they will cough it up
with regret because they could not speak it
© 2010 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
Newsflash: Read Write Poem members, please go read this post (after you’re done reading and commenting on this poem, of course).
This poem was written for Read Write Poem #120: Gathering.
I wrote this for Phoebe Prince, a 15 year-old Massachusetts teenager who hung herself after being bullied by classmates. You can read more about this story here. Someone has also written a very thought-provoking blog post about it here.
When I read the story, I was appalled at how this young lady was treated. Evidently, she was the new girl at school, having recently moved to the area from Ireland. From what I can gather, she quickly adapted and made a place for herself in the social life of her school…which provoked the ire of some of the more popular students there — which is when the bullying began. The stress, strain, and agony took its toll and drive her to commit suicide. Even in her death, her tormentors mocked her on Facebook.
I remembered back to my school days. I was also bullied. Not to the extent as what happened to Ms. Prince, but my memories of it are still very painful. Then I read that she was a writer and an artist…and realised that the gifts this young lady had will never reach us again. The loss of life and the loss of potential both are a tragedy. I had to write something about her.