By Emma Lee
6th grade, James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School, FL

With lines from "Death on Demand: Has Euthanasia Gone Too Far?" by Christopher de Bellaigue, a Pulitzer Center reporting project


have you ever seen a flame
almost finished with its candle?
a waxy pool of memories at its feet
a frozen shadow of a flame
despite still giving a weak light
already having moved on
almost one with the air
begging you without words
to let it end
to make it end

she had that particular tiredness about her
a harrowing exhaustion
and i saw her dwindle before me
i shouldn't have to think twice
the rhythm and deliberateness of the operation
is ingrained in my very bones
they are a part of me that hurts to dwell on
but this isn't about money
it's about empathy
what if
when we blow out a candle
the flame is still there

lighting the way for someone else
in their memories
what if
the air is full of flames
all around us
each for a finished candle
millions of closed storybooks
for our hands, our eyes, our smiles, our tears
and those of our children
and those of theirs
and we are obligated to revisit them
so that they can
never truly be blown out
the young woman by the bed turns to me
"doctor... i think she's ready."


i remember my first group project
we had to write about a flower
roses, they said
every last petal on a rose is always in place
every last petal the exact same color
and they wanted nothing short of perfection
i went home to you
and asked you
what would you pick?
you smiled
roses seem perfect

but i would rather have petals
with pinks that will stay with me
for as long as time
i would rather have petals
whose colors are real to me

we argued
we slammed doors
we wondered what we ever did wrong
but whenever i came to visit you
i would set your favorite flowers beside you
just to make sure you knew that
your colors are real to me
your petals shouldn't have to fall
but if they must
i will hold your pinks for you
the pinks you painted my heart with

every time i stood outside your door
i could hear your struggle
i could hear your tears
the ones you hid as soon as i walked in
because you had always been brave
for me
even when the truth was hanging over us
and we knew

nothing could save you
and nothing could save me from losing you

i've brought orchids for you again
i want you to see them
the end
is that a smile on your lips?
"doctor... i think she's ready," i say
i don't sound like myself
have you ever seen an orchid
cut off from its soil
left behind
who am i without you?


every day
i opened my eyes to
the chemical stench
the bleached-white walls
the synchronized beeping of machines
and the monster
the monster wrapped its claws around my lungs
it acidified every shallow whisper of air i could swallow
until all i could feel
were needles of agony
puncturing my skin

when you came
along with the doctor
you gently placed orchids by my bed
making sure i could see
their flecks of imperfection
the glow of their purity
switching my world to high definition
one last time
your eyes were searching my face
as if all you ever loved was there
and i knew
it would all be over soon
so i smiled
you say
"doctor... i think she's ready."
i can hear how lost you are
oh, my darling daughter
i didn't smile because i was ready
i smiled because i wanted you to be
i smiled
because after countless forevers of pain
of not being able to keep the tears in
i had found the hidden secret of my monster
and i wanted to give it to you
it only hurts you if you let it.

Emma Lee
Emma Lee

Emma Lee is a 6th grader at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida. She is an arts enthusiast and loves drawing, reading, and playing the piano. Emma has been writing since she could pick up a pen. She hopes that her poetry will make a difference in the world, and enlighten readers on overshadowed topics.

Read more winning entries from the 2019 Fighting Words Poetry Contest