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Essay on Early Twenties


2. In the closest proximity, you are alone with the girl inside you.


3. If sometimes she is a cheerleader, you must save the cheerleader to save the world. If sometimes she is not a cheerleader then she is a shot glass on a fence thirty yards away.


7. When all the dirty words are taken she will invent new ones for herself.


6. If you can hardly stand your image in the mirror, it must remind you of the picture you don’t want her to see.


4. She will wear her name like the truth, is willing to take it off.


5. If you have submitted to little pricks of pain like joy dispersing through the bars of your lungcage, you will also succumb to a tantrum of heartbeats.


8. When you shoot at her you are conducting the first experiment, the second will be finding the perch of sleeping birds.


1. Step one, follow the shit upwards.


9. In the farthest proximity, a girl flies a mourning dove on a string.

Danielle Mitchell

levelheaded: Essay on Early Twenties


The non-sequential numbering in Danielle Mitchell’s poem suggests the mixed emotions felt by someone in their early twenties. If the poem is an “Essay” as its title says it is, its format may be indicative of the focus of someone that age. The early twenties can be a time where you can’t get to the next party, to the next dream of who you will become, to the next love or movie or restaurant or feeling or adventure, quickly enough.


We don’t have a 40-page thesis here. We’ve got one idea leaping to another. And yet, all of these ideas seem connected. That connection stems from the speaker’s vulnerability. When she says “you,” sure, she means us, the readers, but it also appears like she is referring to herself.


The poem’s cohesiveness is also related to this recurring attempt to define “the girl inside you.” She reveals herself when we are “In the closest proximity” to another person or ourselves. In the cinematic #3, she wants to be saved or is ready to be blown up—two ideas that could not be more different were it not for their dramatic intensity.


This “girl inside you” is self-loathing, inventing dirty words for herself and being put off by her own reflection. She is still working on her moral compass, wearing “her name like truth” and yet being “willing to take it off.” She has had pain (“little pricks”) and excitement (“tantrum of heartbeats”). As #1 suggests, all of these feelings stem from something deep seeded within us. Try as we might to step outside ourselves as the speaker attempts to do in #9, “a girl” is tied to “the girl inside [us],” the flying mourning dove is on a string.



– The Editors