Ode to My Seventeenth Birthday | Teen Ink

Ode to My Seventeenth Birthday MAG

August 14, 2019
By jl637 DIAMOND, Livingston, New Jersey
jl637 DIAMOND, Livingston, New Jersey
72 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Night washes over us in small fires –

jazz from the retro jukebox of Ruby’s Diner

spiraling like smoke into stifling air, 

the burning stench of sidewalk summer swell

lingering in our lungs along with the salt-scented fries 

and cherry-lipped milkshakes we bought 

with the money we don’t have, from our parents’ stolen wallets. 

Moonlight paints the silhouettes of trees 

on our sweat-slicked skin as we tear through roads like paper, 

driving too fast for our bodies. Not even our shadows 

can catch us as we chase the haunted horizon of the city, 

the crunch of tires against asphalt our only anthem. 

We are novitiates to a fleeting American Dream –

desperate to feel the teenage high of this forbidden rendezvous

under streetlamps that choke the houses with light, 

aching to escape this small-town scene like the birds gliding past 

our starred, striped sky. On the radio,

a crackly voice sings over sad, shimmering synths,

lamenting the fear of getting old, reeling midnight streets,

and don’t our bodies know that familiar language –

the quiet tragedy of growing up, our inglorious selves? 

The moon is howling. The night is dying. 

Soon, dawn will cleave the sky like a peach pit,

and early city traffic will smother the streets in its dreary hum. 

The radio will sing, when I was seventeen 

I knew just how I wanted life to be,

and we’ll laugh at its irony, bittersweet. 

Our growth plates will fuse. Our smiles will harden.

We will outrun suburbia and our parents and ourselves,

driving past the years we’ve left behind,

the ones we’ve yet to reach miles and miles ahead of us:

bright and aglow on the horizon,

a destination without directions,

impossible to see –


We’ll drive toward it anyway.

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