When I was in 7th grade,
I went to one of those talent shows
where jr high kids sing
their favorite sad songs.
One girl sang “Let Her Go”
in the kind of dark auditorium
that made me feel like a caveman
trying to articulate how scary death is
through grunts and growls.
In the row behind me,
this little blonde kid named Clay
whispered, Ain’t that the truth, man
as the girl with the kind of bruises
the doctor doesn’t notice during check-ups
sang, Only know you’ve been high
when you’re feeling low.
I used to know Clay
before he started lighting joints
between every class
and ashing them in the water fountains
when the bell rang.
This was the kid
whose code name for pot was “pizza,”
the kid who mixed little blue pills
into his Kraft mac & cheese,
the kid whose big brother
gotten taken away in handcuffs
for dealing that hard shit one September night
after helping his little brother
with a geometry worksheet.
This is the little boy, who 3 years later,
bumped into me on my way to gym class
with bloodshot eyes – fucked out of his mind
on meth, laughing the way the Joker does
after carving his initials into a teenager’s forehead.
He shoved a handmade vase into my arms.
A burnout kid crying on the moon
was painted on the side of the vase,
the color of a lit match
snuffed out in a sip of grape soda.
I didn’t know whether to grab Clay’s hand,
spit on the vase until the paint melted into a universe,
and throw the puddle of colors on to his chest
like the last handful of water in a dried out creek,
or if I should just walk away,
drop a fist of seeds into the vase,
and pray that one day,
a daffodil might find a way to grow.
Austin Davis is a poet and student activist currently studying Creative Writing at ASU. Austin’s writing has been widely published in dozens of literary journals and magazines including Pif Magazine, After the Pause, Philosophical Idiot, Soft Cartel, and Collective Unrest. Austin’s first two books, Cloudy Days, Still Nights and Second Civil War were both published by Moran Press in 2018.