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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 [email protected] 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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