The Meaning of Light

Zoe Lee
The lights are on
For three-year old Will
This means
is home
And he will be
smothered with love
Until he is tucked into bed,
Falling asleep easily
Because of the happy feeling
in his stomach
The lights are on
For ten-year old Frankie
This means that their mother
Has come home early
He knows that she will give them
A tired smile
And hell feel a fragile happiness
Broken when the phone rings
And the engine roars to life
As their mother leaves
For another shift
The lights are on
For sixteen-year old Chloe
This means that everyone is here
At the dining table
And as everyone settles down
And the chatter
Suddenly, the phone rings
And her mother gets up
Packing her bag
With bags under her eyes
No one other than Chloe noticing
The glistening of her eyes as she
Chloe's heart feeling tight
And her mind filled with rage at her mother
Slamming a platter of green beans down
And walking away from the table with
Clenched fists, trying
To run away from her ugly feelings
The lights are on
For forty eight-year old Emily
This means the end of one shift
And the start of another reminded by
The ringing of the phone
Rising from the dinner table,
Getting ready,
And facing her burdens
Walking with a sense of dread
Laboring under a mask
Her smile faltering midway through
Until someone enters the room
Getting home again
Her words full of pretty lies
Softened with love
And hope
And fragments of the truth
The lights are on
For ninety three-year old Will
This means that it is time to eat
And as everyone gathers around
He is once again filled with
A childish happiness,
The feeling of pure bliss.
Even as the moment dashes

Zoe Lee is a fourteen-year-old and attends high school in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She enjoys expressing herself in words and music. She likes to read and write in her free time. Some of her favorite poets are Naomi Shihab Nye, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson. She was one of the Young Poets in the Community in Virginia in 2022 and 2023. When she's not writing, she can be found playing the violin or the piano.

"Phone home" by Valerie Everett is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!