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Look to the People

By: Jennifer Leal

I wrote this piece initially to show my students how adults can engage in destigmatizing mental health. It turned into something much more and I began to think about how each person’s battle and internal war is a unique yet shared experience. I hope that readers can see themselves and others in my writing and understand that we do not have to live on alone. I chose the space in each stanza (the man, the woman, the children) to show how as humans we work so hard to keep it together, yet we are falling apart. The 2nd to last and last stanzas are meant for people to look for those who provide us safety, comfort, and love because with their support we can be stronger and heal.

3rd Place · Adult Writing (2022)

Look to the Man,

who measures his worth by the size
of his wallet yet is filled with emptiness,

He spins the wheel, cages heart and desires in collars and buttons and knots,

a obligation to protect and provide
them with countless things, opportunities,
of world that says it’s never enough.

Wishing for an instant of gratitude,

aching for


an appreciativeness of the man that he is and the one he longs to be.

Look to the Woman,

who balances precariously on the edge
of exhaustion that could consume the world.

She puts on her face, ties her emotions up in apron strings,

the armor to shield
her from the relentless onslaught of wants and needs
of the enemy in pursuit.

Wishing for a moment of respite,

desperately desiring


a peace,

a contendness that comes with the end of a years-long battle.

Look to the Children

who bear the cosmic weight
of expectations that grow like a black hole, swallowing all in its path.

They fill their packs, zip their feelings in mesh that strains

a bulletproof vest
they don to deflect the spray
of attackers seen and unseen.

Wishing for an limitless pleasure

Yearning for

cerulean skies,

kisses from the sun,

a joy that cannot be replicated.

Look for the People

Who speak with kindness that warms

Enveloping them
Breathing life into weary souls.

Who share their space

Welcoming them
Giving them a safe place to let go

Who’s firm pillars of strength allow

others to lean,
when they can’t support the burdens

Who’s love is so fierce it lights

the night sky. Embers ready to kindle.
Fires close to burning out.

Our wars rage inside.
The Man. The Woman. The Child. The People.
Victors when we fight together.

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