The Punchline

Riley Dickens

Self Loathing and Consciousness walk into a bar.
and of course,
it’s the beginning of a joke.
Because how could I be the funny friend without something to laugh at.
Self Loathing who is already psycho-analyzing things says:
You take while knowing you can never teach your hands what it means to be full,
hours spent clinging to the phone waiting for friends to call just to never pick up. 
You are most at home in the rusted static of a voicemail,
in runaway Goodbyes and Hellos at arm's length.
And so I ask for a drink.
Take a shot.
You snap a wisecrack across your knee and tell your friends about a father you will never know.

Poking fun at empty messages,
shattered memories.
and Meaningless gifts.
On bad nights you sit there and wonder what you do wrong.
what makes people leave?
You sit there and wonder why you’re alone.
And if you’re really that bad.
Take a shot.
When you were young, you could block out anything with video games.
TV static.
Slammed doors.
Now you’ve traded pixels with sweated bedsheets and empty cups cemented to desktops.
Take a shot.
You don’t clean your room.
Content to live pigsty.
Your closet door will not slide shut because of laundry you simply can’t find the motivation to put away.
You can’t find the motivation to do anything.
  To work.
  To shower.
  To live.
  You want to tell your mom.
  But you don’t tell your mom anything.
  She has already done so much.
  Why should she stress about how you feel.
  Why tell your dad.
  He was never there.
  For your graduation.
  Your birthday.
  Your belt promotion.
  Take a shot.
  And you’re afraid.
  You’re afraid that one day you’ll look in the mirror 
and look exactly like them.
The last remnants of your relationship found in the   
  color of your eyes.
  The strands of your hair.
  Self loathing tells you to burn it off.
  Consciousness tells you that this is a trick mirror.
  I want to tell you that this is all a trick.
  One elaborate prank.
  A joke.
  Because the punchline has to have hit already.
  Because the funny friend is still performing,
  and no one is laughing. 
   Because what is there to laugh at besides the truth?
Harsh reality.
Faded memories.
Missing childhoods .

Stephanie Laureano-Mojica
Age 16
Manatee School for the Arts

Sun on Your Skin

I feel the sun burn my skin;
Is this what you feel?
Is your skin burning too?
When you come home all sweaty and tired,
I see your cheeks red and tan.
I see you sit at the table, tired.
Then you tell me “Échale ganas mija”
Those words coming out of love,pain,stress.
I see how the sun is treating you.
One day the sun won’t burn your skin;
I’ll see you finally out of the sun.

Riley Dickens is 16 years old and attends Lakewood Ranch High School.