Volume 39 ~ 2016
After "Originally" by Carol Ann Duffy
I welcome the water. I love the thrill of hurtling toward something I know will catch me. People watch me fall. I can't stop. I plunge into the cold, clear water, which cuts to the bone. I see what I’m made of. I sink: deep, deeper. I watch the blurry board disappear. Will I sink? Will I surface? I curl into myself, lungs about to burst.
Depression is a lilac withering
in summer’s fever.
Grandma works under
that scorching sun. She brought up
our family in the blinding pain
she never speaks about.
Like a bat, Mom hides
from daylight, but the cave
she dwells in is no cooler
than the flares outside.
I never knew she felt it
until she knew I felt it too.
Dad sits for hours outside,
doing puzzles, napping
on the back patio. His skin tans,
but he burns underneath.
I, too, wither in the sunlight.
Baby brother, I watch you grow,
hoping you’ll never know
the constant heat that
burns the rest of us.
I feel distance growing between
who I was and who I am. I’ve been
forced to accept that change must occur
and unlike the waning moon, I’ll
never return to my former state of
cellar doors and tulip gardens. I traded
streetlights for starlight and suburbia
for a Suburban. I was forced into this mold
of modern, middle-class, lake-loving, beer-binging,
too-quick-to-judge town and had forgotten
the sound of my voice. It once echoed like
wind through hills but was whisked away with
the river, so now I seek a new sound.
Feeling only a scrape of shame when primary colored lights took you away. Screamed nicotine confessions trapped us in the confines of a cold hearted, mirrored existence. Scarlett rivers cascaded into a ruby dead end at the tips of you. Scolded scar hearts dove off tumbleweed waterfalls into vulnerable vulture pits of peers. A color darker than black encompassed your palette, pausing only to reflect on the swift strokes of a landslide brush. Liquid lullabies hush liquor lips smoother than your drunken kisses ever could.
Cora Lu Welton
I see myself packing
boxes, staring at the
vacant rooms where we
don’t live anymore.
Wind whistles through
the open windows
of the empty house,
sweeping away my fingerprints.
I see myself tiptoeing
around a room that isn’t
mine, careful not to wake
the ghosts in unpacked boxes.
Stars look the same
from where I sit, a pleasant surprise,
but this house is a stranger.
Here, no one knows me.
Trapped in unfamiliar corners,
At every door, I hesitate.
Dad’s been working on our house since I was three. We lived for years in other homes: first, it was a trailer outside Franklin, then a yellow rental in town, and now it’s a big two-story-not-nearly-finished home dad’s still working on. I sit in the loft overlooking everything.
At first, the Holdrege girls glared at me.
At my back they spit venom.
Mom had said we would leave for the better
but I no longer believed, my back ached
In Franklin, or any small town where the kids have been together since before they could talk, newcomers are never welcome. You are the blue cheese to their American. Moving was hard, especially into a town where everyone knows everything you do and say. If you aren’t careful, you will have a bad reputation. Once you’re in high school, groups form. You stay with your clique. Then you transition to college and the real world, trying to forget.
I voyage in lofty flight, soaring above
enclosed boxes. Lego towns, built
on hinges from the ground, are infested
with arrogant minds, believing in world’s
sheltered from any obliteration.
Fairies supply air-dyne limbs. Mermaids
deliver scaly fins. Sea creatures
of their own breed reside in catfish water.
Rocky sand built my castle from the strand.
I roam corridors as royalty, adorned in
pebbled crowns crafted of twigs
borrowed from trees barricading empires.
I marched triumphantly to battle
merciless dragons, conquering wars,
hitherto now, when the adversaries vanquish me.
My castle dissolves into sand. Suddenly,
my world no longer stands.
We left Arvada just before the eighth grade graduation swimming party that my friends planned for months. I didn’t want to leave. My sister was afraid she wouldn't be smart enough for the new schools. The first night, we cried together, lying next to each other, wishing for the sun to rise and dry up our storm. Now we are closer than we’ve ever been, and I know the sun follows the rain.
The dark, smooth, asphalt street
melts away into dust;
I become a child of gravel roads
and rain that turns to rust.
Cracked concrete and broken skies,
where freedom was once a dream.
I now roam through wildflowers,
and dance in the flowing stream.
The black night covers over me,
no streetlights to show the way.
I will not be afraid of the dark,
The stars won’t lead me astray.
The komodo dragon claws its way out of its egg. The superb bird-of-paradise flies away from the nest in which it was raised. The luna moth hatches from the cocoon it made to spread its wings to climb toward the moon. Eventually, we all leave the place we feel safe.