haunted // coming up for air

it started when i was little.


no one believes me,



i remember.


i remember 

the first moment i wasn't able to breathe,

the first time i thought about death, 

the first chance i let slip through my fingers,

the first apology i whispered to

apparitions that were not there.


i remember

screaming at them to stop.


the voices rolling over and over,

or the ghosts weighing heavy in my chest,

or my parents,


i do not know.


but i do know that i remember.


i was little,


they may not believe 

in my ghosts,


i remember them.


i remember growing up, 

barely in grade school,


if it was normal to be this sad,

or if my father would ever stop screaming,

or if my mother would ever defend herself,

so that i could quit being punished

all because i wanted justice for the woman i loved before i was born.


but my demons were fierce,

and they tore me apart as

i begged for air.


i can't explain being so nervous

that it feels like you're always drowning


people who don't believe in the ocean.


i can't explain having thoughts tell you 

that you will lose your family

if you don't write a certain letter 

over and over,

or if you don't say things under your breath,

just to be safe.



you tread water,

but your muscles ache from the weight 

of a crumbling childhood disillusion.


and you begin to let go.



you shouldn't be so sad,

i whisper

enough times 

until the ghosts tell me they are satisfied

and will let my family breathe for one more day.


i cannot bear to risk losing the chance

to know that

the ghosts will not weigh on my family's chests 

the way they crush mine.


my heart may know this,

but my mind does not.


and so the riptide turns, 

and pulls me under.


i am a child.

i fear for my family,

with every time i ignore the constant sounds 

of my ghosts needing their satisfaction.


they are like feral cats


inside my bones,

until my obsessions give in

to compulsive insanities.


i feel insane.


i am not.


i hope


i am merely misdiagnosed

by people

who do not believe

in my ghosts.


i remember the first time 

i hoped that

perhaps i could become a ghost myself.


i could exist in the gray

beyond a world of pain

and constant worries

that would not go away.


i have been weighed down

by the concrete shoes of my suffering

for as long as i can remember.



and yet, here i am.


i am a human.


treading water,

still tired, 

but still above the tides.


you ask if i have changed.


the truth is

it is even harder for me

to breathe


than it ever was before.


but i am no longer


for the voices to end.


i am singing

for the light to bring me to life.


and i see it.


i see you.


i see him,

my sunflower,

my star in the darkest night,

the one my heart has loved

from the moment i first saw

the ocean in his eyes.


everyone has an ocean.


i see her, 

my mother,


and a reflection of 

the stardust from which i began.


i see the goddess

in my sky above.

the grandmother i pray to every night,

pretending she is the moon

keeping me alive.


you ask how i have changed.


my ghosts would like to tell you 


i have not,

that the scars on my skin

are still proof that

no blood i give

will ever be enough

to rid myself of these diseased phantoms.


but just because my ghosts can still speak

does not mean they still have a voice.


it does not mean they are right.


i will never let them be right.


i have changed

in that 


i am alive.


for the first time ever,

i am alive.


i feel every breath in my veins, 

and though shallow, 

it ignites my bones

beyond any fire with which i have burned before.


i am no longer chased by my ghosts.


i am running through the flames,

burning the light of the other side

to keep myself alive 

and dancing in the ashes

with the demons who once thought they could win.


i have changed because

i have not become my ghosts.


i have become my light.


everyone has an ocean.


and for the first time,

i see through the veil of the oceans that

i once thought bound me.


i see the light above the waves,

and i reach through the blue

to find the warmth.


i reach through the sea 

to touch the sun and

i realize


for the first time,


i may finally be coming up for air.


This poem is about: 


Additional Resources

Get AI Feedback on your poem

Interested in feedback on your poem? Try our AI Feedback tool.


If You Need Support

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