Session Two Anthology
MENTOR: Luther Hughes
on the night that westbrook finally won mvp
in the drafty apartment with light painting
stripes on only one of the walls a gunshot
goes off outside the window and the whole
neighborhood names it a firework the closest
i’ve heard since i was nine and pointed a
bb rifle at a haystack target my dad holding
my shoulders back at the camp where
little white boys learned that guns were
the same as fireworks that they could
both be used safely and responsibly
that they should never be pointed
at a human and yet here we were practicing
our aim with only one of them tonight i pray
for bad aim while watching highlights
of the player whose face always breathes
for the record i’m coming for all your records
whose game is always described as explosive
clip after clip of every shot hitting its target
i figured if you sweat enough bullets
maybe you’d become a gun maybe you’d
make the whole world watch as you
lay yourself down in open surrender not
to say that you’d ever quit just that your
battlefield has boundaries and rules and
you shoot so much we call you an animal
outside i imagine that someone has caught
the firework with their t-shirt a burst star
of blues and purples painted across their
chest the boom stopping then restarting
their heart i do not imagine the shooter
whether or not they look like me or any
of my friends at nine training for a night
like this when finally it was no longer practice
but the real deal i want to believe that
this world has taught me nothing
about who can and cannot hold a gun
safely and responsibly but i admit
i have been bringing candles to the
firefight and i admit i am good at
mourning but know nothing about the long
sticky afternoons that chase after it
and i think if i tell you all this then
you cannot use it against me
later that night a single firefly breaks
through the window screen and buzzes
around the drafty apartment the closest
i’ve seen since i was nine and tried to catch
one hundred in one night hoping i could fit
my entire backyard into a jar instead
accidentally suffocating most of them
this brazen creature comes back to my
bedroom producing its own purpose
splitting the dark open like a firework
Tim Melland is a poet and tax accountant. When not acting in either of those roles, he can probably be found making mixtapes or playing bar trivia. He would love to listen to all of your music takes, hot or cold. He lives in Milwaukee.
I SWEAR, I’M SUGAR
something sweet tunneled beneath your tongue,
waiting to be convinced. when, in the past, my heart-strings
have snapped, my laugh became fog, became a poem mailed
in too many stanzas accompanied by $2 in postage.
there are many places I’d like to travel, have you heard
this one before? how should I stack my goals to win the hand?
there’s something about the smell of no-bake cookies
that sits me down to reminisce. I want to pose
in too many photos, like I’m a showcase not a person.
why would I need to convince you my ingredients are organic?
what am I missing, meaning how can I sweeten the recipe?
after Doni Hart O.G.
HOSPITALS ARE WHERE THE HEART IS: A HISTORY
I am heavy in this moment,
a body yearning to sleep and wake again
with more time to work in.
I am always pushing myself,
so much to experience,
so much to consume. I want to reflect
and remember why all this was worthwhile.
Why life is an apple one bite a day. Juice
sticks on my chin as I raise my eyes to tomorrow.
There is so much I can’t control,
all that has happened I cannot change.
But I am lead surgeon of my heart,
both on the operating table and poised to make the incision.
The stitches will heal, the scars will fade,
and I can recreate my days in the image of myself.
I can be. And be well.
Kelsey May is a graduate of the Grand Valley State University Writing Department and Editor in Chief of “Hyype.” Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in nearly thirty publications, and she received a nomination for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She is a recently married woman, and she’s pretty geeked about it.
This is the Church
And this is the steeple
open the doors to see all the
the warped wood worn with
the time and the affection
that the altar has seen
though its eyes are covered by
that reflect the
colors from the rosy cheeks of a young man
frozen in the stained window frame
looking across to the symbol of
His heaviest battle
and greatest reward
hanging in the same fashion
for all to look at
while they close their eyes
and bow their heads
and turn to the wooden floors
that creak with every shift of an impatient child
or every tear of the widow
receiving the bread and the wine
on the days she misses her husband
on the days she misses her granddaughter
who hung from the tall ceilings
in the same fashion
covered not in purple
but the white of a pale face
which couldn’t face another
or empty pew
to reflect an empty call
She made with her empty faith
in the church
with the steeple.
Aurelia Reynolds is a senior from Tabor Academy who graduated class of 2017. She is very involved in both the arts and the sciences and will be pursuing medical school later on in life. She has been involved with the performing arts since she was little with dance classes, piano and voice lessons, and participating in multiple musical productions. Aurelia has been writing poetry since she was a little girl but found her main performance platform her junior year of high school when she started doing spoken word. Now, Aurelia writes mostly spoken word pieces to be performed in front of audiences. She is very excited to be graduating and can only hope to continue poetry within a structure environment once she starts school. She knows that music and music composition will never leave her life and hopes the same for writing and poetry as well.
I Stand on the Peak, a Mountain of Bison Skulls
In my hand, a small skull, I think calf, pretend it’s still-
born when it entered this country. Its black eyes
so delicate, I could slip into blackness as blackness
slips into me, that ease—the passion of permanence.
The flux of hounding flies dress many.
And who can blame them? The excitement
of death is master, wants to spread its decree
across everything: dead field, dead wind, dead light.
The bones know what only the bones can
stand for: about long-lasting even when all perishes.
One of the skulls might say I once had a father
castrated for his tender meat. Another: I once kneeled
by my dead son out of knowing. Some say it is
mourning that slips into the veins. Some say
those who push it aside for later will decompose first.
I am embarrassed to say I don’t know who
the skulls pine for. Which head belongs to which
hide. Is Alpha. I ask the calf-skull in my hand:
Do you miss your family? It doesn’t speak.
When I toss the skull onto another, the bison
stampede, carry me as afterlife surrounds.
The stillborn skull I’ve grown familiar
with blends, is every other motherless calf
given back to the earth: puckered slick nothing.
At the bottom, flies continue their circus. I comb
the meadow of skulls for my calf, the feeling
of loss beginning to gnaw. I pluck one: no.
Again: no. Truth is, I don’t remember the face, the nooks
and cracks, where the premature horns curve,
when the nose ceases slope, when a lisle of sun
strikes the flat face and sings.
After awhile death feels the same: the faith
nesting within each ligament filters to doubt
and the ground begs to be full. I stop searching.
On bent knees, I begin digging, watching the skulls,
the flies, the damaged weeds, the forgotten sun.
When the hole looks endless, I stand, grab a skull,
bring it to my lips, blow.
Luther Hughes is a Seattle native, but is currently an MFA candidate in the Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Shade Journal and Associate Poetry Editor for The Offing. Winner of Blueshift Journal's Brutal Nation Poetry Prize and Windy City Times Chicago, 30 Under 30 Honoree, Luther’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review, Vinyl, NAILED, Winter Tangerine, Solstice Literary Magazine, and others. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful.