Anaïs Vionet is a sixteen-year-old high school student with a very promising
future as a poet and writer. This is her first publication by a literary
journal, but surely not her last.
From a Distance
Oh, absent one, I miss you.
Darling, an empty place awaits you.
Thrushes chirp their dissatisfaction in the garden
As I doze with boredom.
I send my well wishes from a distance.
Oh, absent one, my digital phantom,
You're here when I call but not here.
I brush my hair with discontent;
I eat bitter, lonely meals to stay alive.
I send my love from a distance.
I am half-finished, feckless, unauthorized, ineligible, incompetent, inadequate
I'm like a Vulcan when you aren't around—logical, distant, evaluating you like
a product with my friends. The consumer with a lifetime of buying.
But near you I am a prisoner of some consciousness independent of thought, like
a fever or the dreamer, with the merest semblance of control.
You are light and loose, hair like Spanish moss and skin like cedar resin, all
laughter and agonizing beauty. The way you lean across the table I can only think of
I'm sure at times it must show, like a red stain on a white dress or some
You have some license on me, a key to a place in me I keep hidden and close; you
fit some interior template of desire.
What good is freedom if I can't tell you!!?
Oh, the ragged vagaries of love's games. A thousand emotions and I am deserted to
silence by some rule of thumb—by a faltering consumer confidence or some
feeling of inward nakedness—when all I want in the world is an open kiss or to
give you an intimate scented something ...
The Age of Hate...
Ok, I'm not paid to think (like the TV shouting heads), I have no real voice
(vote), and certainly no credentials—but I'm as invested in America as any
high-school citizen can be—I've pledged allegiance 3,000 times (hhmmm ... do they
doubt our loyalty?) and when it comes to loving America I'd have to say my
classmates and I are at the center of the spell.
I'm afraid we're growing up in the age of hate ... the age of phony outrage where
each position large or small is high noon and violence is afoot even when
policing ordinary citizens.
We won't address the multitude of old problems in this new age ... we'll just
unleash a marquetry of half truths to dispute the proven until unreasoned
arguments reach their paranoid fullness. The real world is alarming enough—let's
just push that away and ignore it—and while we're at it let's slut shame the
poor, the old, the sick, the unemployed, the hungry and the hand of mercy.
I realize America was never one moral atom bonded for the
better—but those anvils that forged us appear neglected or forsaken. I'm afraid
what's happening now, what we're seeing and hearing now, is a symphony of
erosion—that by the time I have any say at all, the middle class will be
gone—America turned slum—where even the voice of despair will be termed traitor.
We'll only be able to see our greatness in museum souvenir shops where nothing
is affordable and everything is made elsewhere.
Trump's Coronavirus Call to Arms
Mar-a-Lago's in disorder—and deeply in debt.
The virus is draining my palace—but it's not dead yet.
My buddies at Fox—those sweet purveyors of lies—
will stir up the gullible and suggest they rise
to claim their birthright—to die for a cause!
(They'll have to invent one because I'm at a loss.)
But get back out there spending—get back on the roads.
Let's give this disease the deaths that it's owed.
My money's more important than peasants and fools.
The doctors and experts can't make all the rules!
Follow me quickly—oh reason bereft—
yes, follow me boldly and meet my friend—DEATH.
What's the scariest book you ever read? ... Some Stephen King book like
Salem's Lot or The Shining? For me it's Kate Millett's Sexual
Politics ... Oh, man ... Now THAT will scare you to death if you're female.
I discovered a man, overheard at my church, who actually believes his sex is a
sign of power and of superiority. WHY am I so startled? Some childish trust not
yet scrubbed off?—Or worse yet, some belief, not yet strangled, in a better
world? See, stupid me, I thought this bill had been paid, by sufferance, by real
people like Elizabeth Stanton, Carrie Catt and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ... by
entire generations who ran through those tangled woods emerging cut and bruised
... if at all. What is it like for HIM? I see him eying us, his little inferiors
who bleed with the moon, with secret, catlike distaste ... regarding female
opinions as slightly impure ... then, with calm, Godlike grace, granting females
the forms of servant to assume. Can I, can we, be forced to accept this
inheritance? I don't know ... All I know is that this prejudice, so strangely
without substance, strikes me like a dueler's lucky thrust, robbing me of
attendant rights and wit ... springing a tender trap of doubt in the future and
abandoning me to stammering.
I've got an idea
I've got an idea. If you aren't getting what you want, bully me.
If I'm slow in understanding, bully me.
If I'm not playing your every note, bully me.
If you're older, bully me.
If you're smarter, bully me.
If my efforts aren't poetic, bully me.
My identity is just cosmetic, bully me.
What the fuck are you waiting for?
I'm yours to condemn or bless, so bully me.
If you don't think I'm doing my best, bully me.
If your every need is not addressed, bully me.
If I'm not getting undressed, bully me.
I'll probably fold if really pressed, so bully me.
If you're not suitably impressed, bully me.
You're just like all the fucking rest, bully me.
See what it will fucking get you—bully me.
I am simply at my worst these days.
Wild and unpredictable emotions rush on me—it's a place where the layers of
control and composure are very thin.
This school year has been an endless working, always desperate, collection of
Each passing week seemed to unmask some flaw in me—like peeling a rotten
Emotionally, spiritually, I droop like a hanged man.
It's not the work. I survive practice and academic battles as if by some brand
No, it's more.
I have lost my goal. Like biblical engineers raising the tower of Babel on the
plain of Sennaar, I am struck by a lack of focus—my direction, my original
plan, seems shallow; I stand purposefully gelded.
It's worse because I'm somehow SO much less than whom I want to BE.
Like an asymptotic curve I constantly miss my ideal. I am hunted, internally, by
my own inner voice, that ruthless, pitiless, seeker of perfection—it lurks
like the prowling wolf in a stalk bent walk—sifting my every thought, my every
action for flaws—until like the wing-weary hunted prey I could almost welcome
the killer's warmth for sweet silence.
In a mood somewhere between cowardly and courageous I finally approached my Mom.
In a speech from the scaffold I told her of my black, tight, treacherous spiral—of my doubts about EVERYTHING.
I expected the worst—a disappointment, in less than cryptic, ciphered
messages, a slow sharpening of her claws on me for my ENDLESS shortcomings.
Instead I got miracles.
As if rigid constellations had shifted—an atmosphere of freedom earned—and
at least for that moment, the mom who used to sing me awake in the mornings as a
girl—and a delicious summer of rest.
My mom's passionate about Newton's second law of thermodynamics.
She uses a "mom" version which can be stated as:
"Daughters tend toward disorder if not managed."
If I'm nothing else, I'm vigorously, meticulously managed—like a tiger that
must be turned judiciously from one situation to another lest a foot be forfeit.
"You're too young for"... is more than a formulate, it's a knife-like rule-tool,
to dampen upheaval, banish trespassers, and put the "new" under glass—just out
of reach. It's forever primed, there in the parenting tool-belt and can be
thrown with the gunfighter's liquid, skillful ease.
So when I say I'm into something "new," I mean I've tiptoed into that Tartarus
where you find the scandalous, like short skirts and Internet pornography.
The "new" is prima-facie proscribed until it's proven cold, safe and harmless—then blessed—like an old Disney movie.
Our impromptu confinement—in suspending the world—has allowed me unaccounted
moments to sample and measure how this "new" might fit into my life.
So it is—now—that I wake up every morning—ready for crime—and I live but
a hairsbreadth from punishment—yes, I've discovered one of God's greatest gifts
After about a week, my brother, while I'm reading the news, transparently
focuses my mom's attention on the cup by my iPad, by glancing, slowly with his
eyes. My mom is fleetingly lost, then she alights:
"You're too young for coffee," she says.
I look up and groan.
Then, as she moves to collect the now-banned item, I send a sisterly glower
to my brother who stands blithely and innocently sipping from his cup.
But the screen protectors you got me on eBay arrived today—a month late—as
if delayed on purpose to fill the void of you. As if you begged from magicians
some charmed water, some magic root or incantation to flood me with memories.
There are rules in this world. Non-biblical "Thou shalt nots"—that get people, friends and lovers—tossed from the garden. Wickedness is its own reward—congratulations, you earned it—but…
I have no moly to protect me from your charms—even now. Everyday things just
seem to take me back—to us—and my heart breaks—I miss you so.
I pound the pillow, curse the clock and mock injunctions to rest.
The sun finally rises and its rays fall slantwise through the curtains as I dry
A meal, like a forced dose, we soak ourselves in wasted, nervous time.
Finally! We arrive at the competition.
Tension is here and tireless pressure.
The players waiting stiff as straw, tongues playing over dry lips.
Teachers and coaches unapologetic in their pallor.
Music drifts behind us and occasionally gasps as imperfections play like daring
The sparkling prodigy returns disappointed, grimace of a smile, stricken, he
stares away as we search for words, oh! clumsy, unrepairable prince!
Suddenly, it's time and I wonder why we are hurrying, feeling weak, momentarily
frightened to go there.
On this stage in this great, hushed hall, enormity suddenly dawns with mass
enough to crush me.
At last I sit before this odd Steinway music machine—my dearest mechanical
A tremble resisted—the reward of mortal afternoons—endless practices' fruit.
Eyes closed I prepare my best self—pushing all fear, all doubt, to the margins—and begin.
I hope, to recreate, one note at a time, Chopin's ancient impact—with hands
flying, like tethered birds, I hammer out his timeless melody explosions, his
streams of crazily exact math-exam fiery semiquaver motions—then, almost
suddenly, I'm done.
I stand, joyously, nearly crying. The world hasn't ended.
Images in the dark
My father died when I was seven.
Like a girl in a museum I'm drawn to his pictures—those inadequate
reproductions hypnotize me.
What can pictures give? Coal-blue eyes, a knowing look. They exist, for me, like
Cassandra of Troy, full of endless secrets that can never be told.
A snowy, ice slickened, twilight-blue rush hour parade—hundreds of grimy cars
rushing, rushing ... somewhere.
Why do the details I can't remember haunt me so?
A flash of light, the tearing of metal like the screaming of dogs in a reeling,
devouring dance of energy.
The nuclear family detonating with death inches away.
Everyone was asking, "What do you remember?" "I don't know," I said.
Sometimes, as I fall asleep, memories of him—which I hold dear—come to me
like the ghosts of departed friends. Image after image in the embracing dark.
Why is it the further away you get, the more I need you?
Those images and that voice are strangely silent in the morning as I'm, once
again, awakened to a world I'd rather reassemble.