Portrait of a Girl.

There’s a picture

In the yearbook

Of a girl named Juliet.


She was that kind of girl

(You know the type)

Wears baggy, long-sleeved t-shirts

Long enough to wear

As dresses,

But she doesn’t

Because she wears

The same pairs of

Worn-in, well-washed jeans

And dirty sneakers,

Dark laces dragging in the dirt,

All year round.


She carried around

Stacks of library books

Along with her binders

And notebook paper,

A big spiral notebook

Permanently under her

Rail-thin arms.

Her long black sleeves

Always pulled high onto her palms

So the only things that you could see

Were her short, chewed up nails,

Her thin brown hair

Peeking out from beneath

Her black knit hat,

Wide gray eyes,

Dark purple circles

Bruised into the delicate skin

Underneath them,

Staring back at the hell

That they had made of her world.


There was a splay of freckles

On her tiny nose,

And they moved whenever

She wrinkled her nose

Like she did when she was concentrating

On whatever was in

That spiral notebook of her’s,

Her hand gripping the pencil

Like it was going to save her life.


Her strokes were fervent and important,

Her hand flying across the paper

Like fluttering alabaster birds

And her tongue stuck out

As she concentrated,

But only a little,

A tiny flash of pink

Between her snow-white lips.


The picture is of her

Doing whatever it was

She did

In that notebook she carried around.

She was sitting

In her usual lunch spot,

The cramped space

Between the lockers

On the far side of the quad

Where everyone pretended she didn’t exist

And looked over her

Like she was just a wind.


But she preferred that

To the whispers and the taunts

From the beginning of the year

When she’d blurted out,


To her (ex) best friend

That she liked girls

Instead of guys.


They just stared

Like she was a caged animal

In the city zoo.

She had pretended that

The ugly names

Didn’t hurt her,

Even though they felt like knives,

Breaking her down bit by bit

Until she was just scraps

Of herself

Pieced together

With random bits of string and tape

Like a sad rag doll

That could never be played with again.


In the picture

The look on her face

Is intent, determined,

Almost serene

As her alabaster birds

Flew across the paper

With quick, meaningful motions,

But that wasn’t what she was inside.


Inside she was broken down and busted

Like a china doll

That had been dropped too many times

And couldn’t smile anymore.

Nothing touched her

Because her emotions had been broken

Like a fragile thin bone,

Snapped straight in the middle,

Deeper than a hairline fracture,

But not deep enough for people to see.


The picture is on her eulogy,

Along with others

From when she was happier.

She got her long-forgotten wish,

People finally respected her,

But only because

She had taken her pink polka-dotted bed sheets,

From her younger times

When she was a happy little flower child,

Tied them ‘round her skinny neck

And jumped out her windowsill

That rainy night

Three days after her picture was taken.


They had found her notebook sitting on her bed.

It was filled with pencil drawings

Scratches full of vivacity and movement,

Impressions from her world,

Gray and white sketches of her life:

The water fountain she saw from her lunch spot,

The locker next to her that never closed correctly,

Her own hands with tiny lines etching across the surface

Like delicate little spider webs.

There was a carefully curved drawing

Of her old best friend,

Her friend’s lips curved in a smile,

Her eyelashes thick and twinkling,

Down to the mascara-ended tip,

A perfect little heart

Penciled in into the corner.


Juliet had won a full page in her 11th grade yearbook,

But she had to lose her life to earn it.

She had jumped off her windowsill

That rainy night

Because she had only been that kind of girl,

(You know the type)

And she desperately wanted to be her real self,

Her true self,

The self that laughed in the rain,

And danced by herself alone in her room,

And drew pictures that looked like life itself,

And dreamed of getting that one perfect kiss

From the girl she had loved since before she could remember.


Juliet had wanted to laugh and love and live,

But nobody let her.


Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741