AYELET TRAVIS, 18
Ayelet Travis is a Jewish slam poet based in University Heights, Ohio. She uses slam poetry to advocate for social justice and bring awareness to issues such as antisemitism, racism, feminism, and mental health. Travis has also volunteered consistently for five years with Friendship Circle, an organization that helps children with learning disabilities. The experience has engraved in her mind that everyone, no matter their ability, race, gender, religion, or sexuality deserves support and respect.
Travis began to take writing seriously when she started participating in programs organized by Lake Erie Ink, a writing center for youth in the greater Cleveland area. The supportive, low-pressure environment helped her find her voice and learn how to speak up and go out of her comfort zone. During the two years since then, she has served on Lake Erie Ink’s annual teen anthology editorial board, and has had two poems published in their anthologies. Travis has also won first place in the 2019 University Heights local teen poetry slam and continues to participate in slams and open mic nights. Travis is passionate about youth having creative outlet opportunities and being able to, in the words of Maggie Kuhn, “speak [their] minds, even if [their] voice shakes.” Travis hopes that youth will continue to come together online and in person to create change and promote social justice. She thinks that social media can be an immensely powerful tool for connection, activism, and education if used correctly. Her Jewish upbringing has taught her that miracles happen when people come together and fight for justice. She believes that when youth realize the extent of their immense power, they can make the world a better place for everyone.
The Kids Aren’t Alright
by Ayelet Travis
Ask me why the youth are always sad
and I will tell you stories of when we used to play pirates,
found treasure hidden away in our chest cavities, but got so wrapped up in the shine that we forgot to hide the treasure away again.
Let other people look at it, touch it, take it,
anyone who's ever lent anyone a pencil knows that if they come back,
borrowed items always come back different,
whether it be teeth marks or fingerprints,
they're never quite the same as before someone else had them.
And it's funny because now the pirates look a lot like law enforcement and they're taking treasure by the dozen.
And you wonder why we are always so sad.
Ask me why the youth are always angry
and I will tell you stories of how we were raised in factories,
how we were molded by our parents and then sealed away in plastic,
shipped away to school to distract us from the fact that
our dreams and bones were not produced to support us,
but only to support the economy.
Talk about the cost of life, but our dreams are not our own.
Mythical pot of gold at the end of a colorless rainbow
and you wonder why we are angry.
Ask me how two overwhelming emotions can sit in our heads and not destroy everything around them
and I will tell you stories of brains like nuclear war zones,
of coping mechanisms that were only a little less dangerous than what we were feeling, of how anxiety and depression are allies and we've been fighting against them for years,
of how even the ones who have called truces, still view their bodies as minefields,
prone to explosions of unwanted emotion at any time.
Ask me why the kids aren't alright
and I will tell you stories of cages that grew smaller as we grew bigger.
How skin can feel like iron and bars if you hate your body enough.
How we hid the dead look in our eyes with mascara and hoods pulled low over our faces.
Ask me why the youth are sad and angry and pillars of our own self-destruction
and I will tell you all of these things.
But ask me why the youth are not happy,
and I will tell you that we used to play pirates and
that used to be enough.