Atlanta Word Works / all

Poem and photo by Laila Sokera Henderson, 19, Oglethorpe University

VOX Teen Poetry: Addition

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If my math is correct then
if I write a thousand poems in my head
the moment I think about killing myself
then the thought cancels out.
this is an equation I never show my work for
the kind of math I do doesn’t often have proofs
I just do as I am told. I just do as I need.
It doesn’t make sense on paper
So I carve numbers into my body instead.
It’s always balanced, this math
zero’d out on my paper-thin skin
If I write a sum on one arm it is written on the other
over and over again until I can catch my breath
It doesn’t matter to me if the answers are correct
Just as long as everything is balanced
Just as long as I am done counting
Just as long as no one asks me to prove this work.

Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) – 1-800-715-4225, available 24/7

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) also offers 24/7 connection with a trained counselor at a local crisis center, or Text “START” to 741-741

The Trevor Project – suicide prevention hotline for LGTBQ youth ages 13-24, Text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200 Thurs-Fri (4-8 p.m.) or call (866) 488-7386 – 24/7

For more resources for yourself or a friend, visit

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