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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Young Writers Project: 'Schizo'

Sara Young, 17, of Sheldon writes about how she wishes she had known a relative before he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
YWP Photo Library, photo by Alexandra Contreras-Montesano, Burlington
Sara Young, 17, of Sheldon writes about how she wishes she had known a relative before he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

I wish I had known you
before the darkness crept in,
before the voices whispered,
before the demons lurked in every corner.
Kind, compassionate, caring.
All manner of “C” sounds to describe you then.
They describe you now still,
only changed.
Only not.
It first manifested
ceaseless, complex, cacophonic.
Your diary read, “I can’t take this,”
and you hit your mother with a wrench,
or so you thought.
Meal time was spent on the porch, alone.
Inside the house, siblings laughed.
Inside your head, something laughed, too.
Aunty took one look and said it –
a cruel, careless word.
The word of a trained nurse:
Dad was scared to death.
You were three years older than him;
what if he caught the loony gene, too?
Oh God, what if they all did?
A trip to Ohio was supposed to set you straight.
You came back curved and crooked,
babbling about love you found in the woods.
Some beautiful girl in the woods.
They describe it like a rollercoaster.
You go up and up and up,
and just when you’re on the top – clarity!
You crash down faster than you can imagine.
47 years of the same rollercoaster is tiring.
And now:
Your boisterous booming laugh
echoes in Martha’s Kitchen.
A shared joke between you and a friend
nobody else can see.
Society shuns you,
deems you unimportant.
You can’t work, you can’t provide.
You stare at me on the street
and I turn my face away.
I’m sorry.
You did not deserve that.
You are so different.
I’m sorry I was scared.
I didn’t know you then;
I still don’t know you now.
Coughs rack your body.
You have the grin and wide eyes
of someone who has seen too much,
and heard too much,
and felt too much.
I try to piece together what I can.
There’s so much history,
gaps in the stories.
I crave understanding
so I can preserve your memory.

The Young Writers Project provides VPR's audience another avenue to hear and read selections and see visual art and photography from Vermont's young writers and artists. The project is a collaboration organized by Susan Reid at the Young Writers Project. The thoughts and ideas expressed here are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Vermont Public Radio.

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