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I look through boxes for things
I want to keep, taking out those
I need, leaving in those I don’t
Need or want. Then suddenly I see,
At the bottom of the box,
A word.

It’s a scary word, a horrible word,
A terrifying word. I don’t want that word.
I don’t see why I’d ever want that word.
I close the box, but on the floor in front
Of me, there I see
The word.

It creeps closer. I start to run. Imagine!
This disgusting word chasing me
Away from the box, out of the room,
Into the hallway. I look behind, and there,
Still chasing me is
The word.

I trip on a memory. The word catches up and
Before I can stop it, it jumps in my ear. I feel it
Slide into my nerves, settle in my brain.
I crouch on the ground as the word sends
Vivid images and pains.
That dreadful word.

Eventually the word quiets. If nobody
Says anything it just sits in my brain,
Sending me occasional sparks of electricity.
But one day, as I simply exist,
Someone dares to say
That awful word.

The word fires a jolt to my brain.
I jump up and run away. Running and
Running and running from my own thoughts.
But there’s no escape. I wonder why I ever
Went and found
That stupid word.

But the most distressing thing
Is the way other people
Can say it. Without flinching or hesitating,
Without lying down and dying,
They simply say—somehow they can say—
The word.

Ava Espinoza
Ava Espinoza, 12
Palo Alto, CA