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When people ask me why I write

Photography by Avah Dodson, staff poet

Artwork by Fatema Rahaman, staff poet and artist

*TW: suicide, drug use, death*

When people ask me why I write,

I say as simply as I can, I write because it helps me understand. I write because

I am fourteen as I hold my friend together like water in my palms, tracing her arm in circles as she sobs in my lap, eyelids squeezed shut to shield her against a world that withers like roses left to dry. Earlier that day, she took two shots of her friend’s marijuana in the school bathrooms and now she shudders in my arms and tells me she thinks she’s going to die. I don’t ask her why she did it. There’s no point.

I always say I write what I see.

I am twelve and I write a poem about an alien machine that comes to earth. It has hard, metallic skin and gangly iron limbs. It looks at this world we’ve created, this rotten world that we serve on silver platters of pain and death, this once-rich soil that we have taught to grow flowers of ash and blood, and it cannot bear to exist on our earth for another moment. So it grows wings and it lifts away into the sky, and leaves nothing in its wake, and does not return.

Somewhere in Maui, poverty and storms rip people’s homes from the ground.

On a dusty field in Arizona, a boy with bruises on his knees learns to hold a gun.

I am ten and I get called out of school early because a teacher found my brother drawing three lines on his wrist with a knife from our kitchen. I do not understand the tightness in my mother's hands. I do not understand why she keeps holding me like that on the ride to the hospital. But as our family learns to tie itself back together, as my brother learns to live again with three thin scars on the silky skin of his arm, I begin to understand why girls and boys take flights off buildings and color their wrists red, why mothers always feel the need to hold their children so close.

Sometimes I find myself wishing what my brother had so desperately wished for, what those girls and boys jumped for:

that I had hard, metallic skin

and limbs of iron

so I could finally be free.

Avah Dodson’s short fiction and poetry have won prizes and recognition in the Bluefire 1,000 Words Contest, the Royal Nonesuch Humor Contest, the Scholastic Writing Awards contest (National Gold Medalist), the Sarah Mook Poetry Contest, the Kay Snow Poetry & Fiction Contests, and the Betty Award Contest, among others. Her works have appeared in Incandescent Review, Echo Lit, Parallax, Voices de la Luna, Stone Soup Magazine, Highlights Magazine, Skipping Stones Magazine, DePaul’s Blue Book: Best American High School Writing, and others. She enjoys reading, going on walks with her cats, and k-pop (a little too much). She despises grapes with seeds and ukuleles. You can find her holed up in her room listening to Stray Kids or spending time with her family and friends.

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