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Brooklyn Saternow is a sixteen-year-old sophomore at Oswego High School. Saternow was winner of the inaugural Subnivean New Writers Awards scholarship competition. She lives in New York, where she spends time dancing and stringing words together.


My mother tells me that beauty is pain, I must suffer to be beautiful. She whispers these affirmations with her nimble fingers pulling my hair at the root, this is how she keeps young and quick. No, I whisper in reply, I love to undo her oh so precious work. Each strand a mark of deviance from her standard. I wanted her to be ugly. I wanted us both to age. My mother tells me to be a lady, sit up straight, cross my legs, keep my head up, keep my braids in, just hold still. So, I reel myself in. I suffer the agonizing pull at my scalp, I am not allowed to complain. I am not allowed to let my hair down. I let her play pretend. My mother tells herself beauty is pain. Every day I must suffer but do I feel beautiful? Does she? No, my mother whispers. So, I stand up. I undo my braids, She helps me untangle the rest.


Somebody killed themselves today

statistically speaking.

Someone fought,

and lost.

And I am sad,

though I did not know them,

yet I am happy it was not me.



contains a slow-dying light,

searing them from the inside out.

I know that their sun has set,

and hope they looked into some cold new light.

I too am a number,

a statistic in a

population of born strugglers and

dying battles.

And someone


has stopped struggling,

has set their own sun.

I feel the number growing,

both in our wavering populous

and on the ever-ticking clock,

I feel my own sun dipping toward its horizon.

After all, it is

5 o’clock somewhere.


Midnight screams into my ears, I wake with sweaty palms, “Hear me,” she shouts, “I am real.” Morning will not be happy with me. Midnight compels me to go outside, hug the stars and grasp the moon, they are real too, I learn. Every night Midnight returns. “You are alive,” she howls, I enter the woods, I chop down the tree for its apple. Which one was real? Midnight does not care, She says it was worth it, to kill the tree. “If it can so easily be killed,” she asks “Did it ever live?” Midnight comes to me with howling wind, she wants me to thieve once more, “Am I real?” I scream at her, with no reply. I lie back down.


My body is not a temple,

it is a prayer.

Recitations from open-mouthed children,

the most desperate begs of bowed heads,

please answer me.

My mind is full of pushed together hands.

My heart reaches up and up my

throat to pull at words left unsaid,

and these open palms keep pleading,


I am not worshiped,

my heart is standing at the altar of my mind,

I know the routine of religion,

but feel myself whisked into the wind,

exorcisms and miracles aren’t

all that different.

I do not open the doors,

do not entertain their unsaid words.

I feel the masses plead,

begging to be heard,

to be answered,

I am the wishes left at altars,

I am praying too


I am a mirror.

A reflection of what you want to see,

Look into me and you will only see yourself,

I am not alone in this regard.

You are a mirror,

you reflect my worst parts back at me,

when I look into you,

I feel too genuine.

When two mirrors face one another,

it is said they create a paradox,

a never-ending loop,

like the difficulty and discomfort of human interaction;

we are infinitely reflecting one another,

repeating the same

fraction of light.


My best friend James is really bad at peeling oranges. I am so-very good. I peel my orange quickly, with ease, the rind coming off in one perfect piece. James cuts up his orange in a horrible display, juice spraying everywhere. He always ends up bruising the fruit and getting the rind caught underneath his fingernails. Sometimes he has to toss the entire orange, after massacring it. Sometimes I laugh at him, then I share. For messiness, James gets off with a few laughs and the sweet smell of citrus. For perfection, I get half.


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