It’s a quick walk to the subway.
You follow along, in your crisp suit and tie,
your black briefcase clenched tightly in your warm palm.
The mob of businessmen marches like blazes:
an army preparing to wage war
on the rats in the subway.
You stand on the platform, slightly hunched over from years of
The train produces wisps of sparks as it pummels into the station.
Pressing your briefcase against your chest,
you squeeze your way into the car.
You are like a pink rubber ball in a Plexiglass box in the back of a party shop.
The sticky fingers of a toddler on her tiptoes reaches in
to take a sphere from the box.
The girl shuffles you around.
The train lurches.
The train stops. Step out.
Left, right, then left again.
Your feet lug your heavy body up the grimy stairs.
You’ve been released into the wild. You’re a tiger.
The drool spills between the gaps in your fangs and onto the ground.
Wipe it away with your paw.
You breeze by the pharmacy on the way home.
The disheveled homeless man sits in front. He’s
always there. He’s the soldier with a bullet in his leg.
The one you always leave behind.
He silently shakes his Styrofoam McDonald’s cup.
The clang of a few pennies pierces your ears, the echo like a
knife on the underside of your nails.
Cross the street.
You breeze by, as normal, not even
the broken shards of a thought remain.
Over time, the brutal concrete slowly washes away your rubber souls.
Soon, you’ll have to buy another pair.
You arrive at your building. You fumble for your keys, which resemble
red jelly beans with strings pushed through them.
A light, a past memory from childhood creeps its way into your brain.
Sweep it out.
You manage to open a series of doors with your clammy hands.
Another flight of stairs. You heave yourself up, like a string is tied around your waist
and a dwarfish man is at the top, building muscles as he pulls you up.
One flight. You promise yourself to work out. Again.
You enter your apartment, you kiss your wife.
You’ll get to do it over tomorrow.
It started as a bean, a nugget, a sprout.
It was inside her stomach at first, but
her body nourished it.
It began to use its tentacles to
claw its way up her esophagus.
It was a milky vine.
A hand in a drainpipe searching for a
clump of hair. Soon, a
quiet leaf appeared.
It broke its way out into the world through
the underside of her nails, like she was
pushing a rose thorn into them.
Others passed her with their eyes planted firmly on
They shared their thoughts with one another as if they were
wisps of thread.
She wore gloves.
The snowball just kept rolling. Nimble
leaves sprouted from her
head, pushing out the dead cells that had once covered
her scalp so freely. She tucked the crisps
under a baseball cap. The vines in her body grew
into sharp claws, scratching at her bones from the
inside out; absorbing what had always belonged to
her. It was like being broiled in an oven,
like reaching for the bar of soap that she dropped in the shower, with no success.
A hundred small needles pierced her flesh, red venom
out of it.
The vine emerged like an an arm of a fetus from her
back, covered in thick, tranclucent saliva.
She was a slave to the plant.
It whipped her. Her skin was fire
at the slightest touch. Friends, family, lovers:
we all slipped away into cracks in her life,
holes she couldn’t reach.
When she couldn’t bear it anymore, she
slipped the needle out of her flesh. Her
bony legs carried her fragile body
down the stairs,
leaves flying off of her head,
down onto a street,
which she stumbled down until we could see her no more.
Lena Renshaw, Age 14, Grade 9, Hunter College High School, Silver Key