HEMLOCK HOUR

Sunday nights in the early hours of Monday morning are
anything but silent. All of the truths in the world could not
keep me from holding my tongue and filling the room with
uncertainty, a salve to the inevitably false optimism of
everlasting light. I don't believe in men without shadows, 
because there is always a shadow, whether or not anyone
can see it. There has never been an entire room in my life
to which I have been entirely honest, but I'm not sure how
to feel about that. To know that there is nobody in the entire
world that knows you inside out, yourself included, is to
realize that you are a painting on a canvas with no edges. 
All of the voices in the wind are afraid—they know that
there is no certainty to truth, or to falsehood, or to any sort
of unspoken promise; but in the dark folds of one a.m., the
entire world is alive in the quietest sort of way, a silence loud
enough to drown out the anxious whispers of the wind, and
that is enough to convince me that when morning arrives, 
the light might not always be as harsh as it seems.

 

THE AFTERMATH OF GHOSTS

Five years ago, I was a ghost; I wanted nothing more
than to inhale the morning fog and release it
like cloud cover when the sun glared down too harshly
and made all of the stardust under my skin light up
like they were going to supernova. My skin was the
skin over the birch trees in the empty parking lot of
twenty-four hour supermarkets, pockmarked by the
shadows of bird feet. Birds nested in my hair and I
remember holding still, holding all of the breaths that I
had ever inhaled and never exhaled in fear of my words
tumbling out after them in cascading rushes of revelations.
I searched for freedom between the veins stark on my
forearms, like fish frozen underwater, which is
an odd way of saying breathing space. Five years later,
I’m no longer half-ghost and lingering between memories
of blue skies juxtaposed against gray space, and I
no longer follow the wind wherever it tugs me. The
trees still sway bare next to the supermarket where
every light fixture pulses with energy drawn from the
spaces between lives passed by. When I walk outside
and the moon is still out, the sky feels so much more
infinite than it ever was and yet, so much closer to my
fingertips. The bones in me shudder with kindred spirits.
I’ve never wanted to touch the stars like I do now.

 

ENTROPY AND ALL OF ITS NAMES 

I'm riding the highway across upstate New York
and all I can see for miles is roll upon roll of 

telephone wire curling between telephone poles,
all stickered with posters and flyers and pages

upon pages of forgotten stories, weathered by
the rain over years, the ink dried in trickling

tracks, the way that the stars above drip down
the sky like they're all falling closer and closer 

until they hit the ground like footprints in snow.
The wind rustles, and I can hear all of the tall

grass in the field next to me shivering in the dark;
I hear all of the crickets screaming, chirping so

loudly that the air is humming just as loudly as
the engine. The clouds peel away from the moon

until it's no longer obscured by silver floss, and
there's an inexplicable aching in my heart that 

makes me want to sing out loud, to just call into
the night that's just as alive as I am even when I

shouldn't be. All of the energy in the universe is
coiled into an infinite stroke of asphalt, laid out 

in front of me like train tracks taking me into
the uncertainty of the future, and it's a sight

glowing enough to draw me out of my shell and
out of my slumber, into a pulsing world of post-

sunset music that fills my bones until I forget
all of the burning, all of the weariness, the years

weighing on them, and all of the things that
kept me up so late to begin with.


STEPHANIE TOM is a Chinese-American high school student living in New York. She is the managing editor of her school newspaper and an executive editor of her school literary magazine. Her writing has previously been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the American Association of Teachers of French, the National Society of High School Scholars, and the Save the Earth Poetry Contest. Her poetry has either appeared or is forthcoming in The Rising Phoenix Review, The Blueshift Journal, Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among other places.