My cousin is just seventeen
neatly built
blonde haired and green eyed
and beautiful
despite braces, and the general awkward angles
that form the chrysalis between
boy and man.

On Saturday, he played the dramatic lead
in his school musical
I put a feather in my hair and went along
in a new dress
to sit between his mother and mine
glowing with pride
applauding with stinging hands, and
clutching one another,
laughing ‘til the tears ran down our cheeks.

We love a good show, my family,
and we love each other most of all.

He stole the limelight, our boy,
with his overacted swagger
his ugly suit
and his improvised dance moves.

It was an amateur outing like any other –
unexpectedly brilliant vocals
spadefuls of melodrama
the odd microphone outage
and a stage full of beings
radiating youth
and promise.

They were so young
so lovely
so talented
and so happy,
it made me feel old
and alive – 
not an unpleasant combination.

Last night a schoolgirl
a friend of a friend of a friend
killed herself.

She might have been on that stage
in a wig and a floral dress
missing a dance step
suppressing a giggle in the wedding scene
blowing kisses to her mum
in the encore

but instead this morning
someone found her cold
and ended
by her own hand.

I wish she could have been in that theatre
on the stage
and before it
watching the magic of her very existence.

What kind of world is this
where children find themselves so completely without hope
so lost
that they choose death?

And how do the ones still living
the ones making tearful phone calls and
trying to make sense
of the utterly incomprehensible,

how do they survive it?

Our own hurts
our broken hearts and shattered illusions seem
but scraped knees
and lost dolls
in comparison.


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