Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Sparrows This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I can tell you how I floss, how I grind my teeth when I sleep, how I press spoonfulls of peanut butter upside down on my tongue. I can tell you why I have ulcers on my gums and calluses the size of quarters on both big toes. I can tell you that my logic curled up like the corners of burned books and died, but I can't tell you why.

Maybe chewing on electrical cords as a child did it – or maybe normalcy splattered like blown wax as I painted my hands with decapitated dandelions. I can tell you about the trapdoor I fell through on a fall afternoon when my mother sat me down to tell me my best friend had been shot dead. That trapdoor swung open four more times before high school was out. These trapdoors are the ink flicked across my cerebrum, and when I was 17, I stopped trying to scrub it off.

The sparrow bracelet is silver and suspended. I scrounged it from a box I hadn't opened in a year and fastened it on my wrist with its faded cord and ridged tail. A week before was the fifth trapdoor; his name was Matt, and he was 15 when they found his body by a lake. My knees had smacked the floor when my friend told me, and I can't tell you why I still prayed “Oh Jesus, please” from six hours away, but I did.

Three months earlier I had read that sparrows were the collectors of lost souls, and I had spent twenty times as long trying to forget how many lost souls were sutured into my life. I didn't want to remember the popping veins and red eyes and the scabs that puckered friends' skin, but I did, and I didn't want to remember that, without them, I would have had the same. They sculpted my 14-year-old psyche, and three years later, my eyelids were still pinned open and vulnerable.

Since Matt died, I have kept the sparrow clasped on my wrist, warmed by the pulse I owe to the people it collects. I can tell you that lost souls are like candles whose heat wraps around elbows and knuckles after the wind takes them. Sometimes when I can watch my breath billow and the stars dangle close, I know lost souls were too alive to be contained by thin skin. I have learned to fly because they fell, to see because their eyelids have shut, to scribble their stories because their fingers have gone cold.

Some nights I wonder if I am a sparrow too, learning from a thistle nest what can happen if I do not spread my wings soon. Until I do, I know nothing is absolute – nothing but the truth that we are spirits in bodies, words behind teeth, and life tethered to reality.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Join the Discussion


This article has 1 comment. Post your own!

Bryn.B said...
today at 5:39 pm:
My mouth hit the floor as I was reading this! It's so beautiful, so delicately crafted! Can't wait to read it in print.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback