High School Poetry: I am remembering the sacredness of sleepovers

High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of poetry and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

Illustration by Amelia Garvin

I am remembering the sacredness of sleepovers
By Sarah Ens

I am remembering
the sacredness of sleepovers
and the holding of hair, holy in our hands
twisting braids too loose, taking care
with their undoing, over and over
like an anointing

our ritualized rating
of those poor boys, a sacrifice
until Ryan got a ten out of ten out of
nowhere so we started watching LOTR in slow-mo,
Spiderman backwards, I don’t know why
it was so funny, these things
we could control

and when Abby's mom died
Abby lay on the floor in the basement at Meg's
and her cousins lay beside her
like three fingers on one hand that said a-okay
Abby pulling the sleeping bag up
over her head, staying still
just like that

I could never keep vigil, I always
fell asleep only to be woken up
to choose which teacher to kill marry
or screw, shouting elementary school songs like
swears, like spells, I Am
Chiquita Banana shaking the walls of the spare room
and then sneaking our mothers' vodka, the first time
we did puzzles all night before crumpling
to the floor to confess the way we felt
ourselves, the spaces we'd found that made
us feel ashamed

one time I threw a whole cake
on the floor at the end of an all-nighter
and we scrubbed and scrubbed
but the stain on the unfinished wood
just spread, reckless
and so full of feeling every night, catching
our new mouths on old magics
on baby feminist god-fearing poems
speaking together our scriptures in so
many pink tongues

and I wanted to soften the matted knot
at the nape of your neck, escaped from my attempt
at a French braid, you looking to me fuzzy,
blurred with tenderness, tangles
telling me that he touched you when you were
just a kid

I am remembering
how we pressed our shirt sleeves to our chins
how our eyes burned that dark room, I am reciting
the prayer that curled up from our growing lungs
and lengthened like smoke, stretching
up and up into safer sleep.

Sarah Ens grew up in rural Manitoba before moving to Vancouver to study Creative Writing at UBC. After earning her BFA, she returned to Winnipeg to write sad poems and surround herself with books and Mennonites as an editorial assistant at Turnstone Press. Her work has appeared in Poetry is DeadThe Garden Statuary, and Fugue.

Amelia Garvin is a painter and illus­tra­tor who has exhib­ited her work in group shows across Van­cou­ver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.