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Sherman, Katherine, Youth Prayers for Survival

SHERMAN, KATHERINE

Katherine Sherman
Age: 16, Grade: 11

School Name: Avenues The World School, New York, NY
Educator: Hilary Harnischfeger

Category: Poetry

Youth Prayers for Survival

Neon Gods
the city kids love quietly. whispers in between buildings and 
hickeying the brickwork. sometimes, 
you can’t hear it at all. 
all reckless doubt, and fresh limbs, and learning—
hard and faster than the bookstores
packed up shop. 
we’ve seen the
illuminated crosses downtown, harlem churches     with carved-stone faces,
bright-graffitied walls, and an exit up to the roof.
we are insomniacs  and exhausted,
fucking in dissasociated shells. and
the city kids love quietly. with nothing left, except 
ruin me.

our love isn’t monogamous.
we married the skyline, and you called it sacrilege;
now we lay down on subway tracks, 
sip exhaust through coca cola straws    and pray for a buzz.
the city girls, we scrawled odes everywhere.
daydreams and lies:     the old skin between teeth,
re-tracing our own bodies like criminal outlines all over taxi ads of
flash dancers and new york dolls.
so desperate for self-love, we cut open our chests.
and the city kids love quietly, and go to pray 
at a neon altar.

Visions of Americana
last week,
someone shot the tv through its face with an automatic rifle;
    now, it only cries in static.

before leaving home,     the neighborhood kids striped their faces
in sickly-cherry pigs’ blood,
and when the school called home, they said
they didn’t know where they’d gotten it from.

i once read a story     where a girl got the tip of her 
nose cut off;
now, i check all the time that mine is still there.
this reminds me of old lovers.

On Youth
they say we are the wily youth, the wiry youth, the corkscrew-haired, metal-chinned, screw-me-into-the-dirt-but-never-the-machine-youth. 
hand us a can of oil, and we will plant it 
in the threshold, but burn the gears. us, we swallow the metal, 
choking and gulping like the floundering, seawater man. in our own stomachs make pulp
of barren, foreigner dreams, but encircle our tongues in transparent gold.
they handed us our bodies to trespass in, getting angry that we didn’t stay to grow the grass when the house went up for foreclosure—there is spit in the bankman’s eye and blood in mine. 
i’d rather be in the company of no one, 
telling you to drink me up like pale medicine, at the tea party 
in the house of belongings that no one packed.
we are earth’s children 
craving burn, 
grab-hard our bruises in order to feel the skin tender beneath—i’d like to tell you i love you 
as you separate my body 
into pieces the size and number of each baby-soft 
freckle.