Poems submitted by Becca Hadwen
National Poetry Month 2020


my depression is a stack of cardboard boxes

that shelter me from grief’s downpour.

i build them up, make them intricate

and shit, i drift into unfeeling. no guests stay

long in my soggy, moldy home,

so i make cardboard cut-out friends

and name them after my favorite book

characters. hold my breath when they turn

into pieces of me i forgot to miss. i exhale,

come home to a body. my body.

ain’t no cardboard. sinew, flesh,

shit, veins, cartilage, duh-DUH, duh-

DUH, a-LIVE, a-LIVE. i almost.

make no mistake—NO AMOUNT OF HEALING


just because i am better [for] now

does not mean it was worth it.

i am reclaiming my life as all

mine . dancing barefoot on rain

soaked asphalt to “Coconut Oil” ,

puddles splashing shameless .

sometimes it doesn’t rain

for weeks, and i wonder if this is

joy or if i’ve returned to my

cardboard home. moments

measured only by the rise and fall

of my chest . voices reverberating

in my ear drums and mine not least

among them . sometimes it’s hard to know

where it’s safe to thrive. tree bark beneath

my palm . loves dripping off my tongue .

clouds swirling in whirlwind sky .

small not-girl wandering perilous

Earth . a heart bro

ken into o p e n n e s s .

sometime i can’t help

eyeing the cardboard boxes. i

could build a castle and shelter myself

from thegriefthegriefthehurting.

my breath gets short . the unspeakable

miracle of learning the first ((echo)) of my name .

Eighteen and Counting

After "The Body in August" by Robin Coste Lewis

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood them.
Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

Because before i knew of a Higher Power, i felt love’s ribbons stitching together my bones, and my ego named me saviour. Because my mother’s heart still splinters at the sight of me, and Abuelo doesn’t know how his daughter lived this long. Because i feel at home in big, hard things, like trees and statues of stone women. Because Higher Power made every tree i have found respite in. Because i prayed that i might not wake up for three years, then cried for two. i am certain that if i were alone i would not have lived this long.

Because i hurt myself worse than anyone else, and that’s saying something. Because the whole time i called it helping. i let Debbie, Nicole, Lauren, Céline, Kat, Susie, Mila walk all over me and called it thoughtful. Because when i told Nicole enough, she cried, and said you love yourself. Maybe. i am learning.

Because i allowed their mouth where it did not belong, and the ocean washed away their spit when i asked. Because i sprinted, skipped, floundered, and i could not breathe, and the tree held me still. Because even in my wild afraid, i can teach fourteen-year-olds the song already etched inside their hearts, then suck in air when their voices wobble. Because i cried real quiet on my eighteenth birthday, and no one asked why. Because i dipped pieces of my ninth-grade journal in the sea, and then plastered them on my high school’s walls.

i believe the mediocre is miraculous, every full meal sacred. i believe the stars are stretching our universe, and i cannot ask why anything until i understand infinity. My life is filled with happenings exponentially larger than me. When my heart becomes too heavy to carry, Higher Power sews together stars and lays them across my shoulders. i thought i was alone until i realized each salty tear on my pillow caused earthquakes across my Higher Power’s heart. There is a difference between surrender and submission. There is a difference between humility and self-hatred. People used to say i was kind, and i never believed them because i know i am proud. i know my ego has named me saviour, as if.

Because some stories never get told in order, and some things only happen in present tense. Maybe our ordering of time is wrong. i could never comprehend. If my body were the nucleus of an atom, the electrons would be sixteen miles away. Most of the universe is empty space, and i constantly perceive it as solid. There are color-blind octopodes that can camouflage perfectly. Higher Power, like my grief, is laced through my fingertips. That is why i place my hands flat on people’s backs during hugs. That is why i hold my love’s hands. i know my fingers whisper you are loved and you are not alone in a voice deeper than language.

Higher Power likes to hold my hands. Sometimes i need their energy pumped into the slack of my body. Sometimes, they get lonely in their infinity. They wander through stardust, slip through wormhole, cartwheel across dimensions, just to hold my small, warm hands.