Sophie Szew

Prisoner #09092002

They said my mind was a prison, and so 

I decided that thoughts were prison guards who spent their dry, dreary lives circling my cell and spitting slimy interrogations out of their rumination-ridden throats. 

I decided that feelings, they were my tarnished gold-plated handcuffs, and human nature my black and white corseted uniform. Seventeen years of shivering on the floor which 

I decided was society, and not once did I consider an alternative. But then she appeared, my new inmate who 

I decided was named Hope. She told me there wasn’t a single prison she hadn’t escaped, and wondered why I hadn’t tried to yet. “I suppose it’s because I hadn’t met you until now” To which she responded poignantly: “look.” And so like Eve in Eden, I did. The sight of a pointed, wired gate poured into my vision. 

I decided that was my mouth and that I could, hypothetically, use my tongue as a slide to bypass my teeth. I turned my gaze above the door, and found a double-headed chimney spewing out carbon dioxide. 

I decided that was my nose, and that I could, hypothetically, ride a wave of air to bypass getting stuck in my nostril. I flirted with the sight of two windows, one on either side of the chimney. They opened and shut rapidly enough to chop light into pieces. 

I decided that they were my eyes, and that I could, hypothetically, use the sparse amounts of window-washing fluid to bypass the chomping. But what about the guards and the handcuffs and the uniform and the low floor? “It’ll be okay,” said Hope, and

I decided it would be. Suddenly, I found myself in the arms of a guard, who used my handcuffs to break the glass of the window, throw the chimney into overdrive, and pick the lock of the door. I landed in the forest which

I decided was my soul, and that for the rest of my life, I would speak bravely, breathe deeply, and cry cathartically. “Thank you, Hope.” I prayed. “Thank you for setting me free.” To which she replied: “Who was the one who decided I exist?”

Sophie Szew is an 18-year-old first-generation Jewish-Latina-American from LA who started writing poetry while she was literally on what was supposed to be her deathbed. Now fully recovered from a life-threatening illness, she uses her writing as a platform to advocate for social justice. She is an apprentice at BreakBread and is published in TABC’s Poetry Collection, Jewtina, and FEAST. She is also forthcoming in Tipping the Scales’s She Speaks Anthology. When not writing, Sophie spends her time volunteering with unaccompanied, undocumented child immigrants or building up the numerous advocacy organizations she founded, including the youth Latinx Leadership Conference and DemystifiED Corp.