Inscape Art Publication

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William Jewell College

500 College Hill

Liberty, MO 64068

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Poetry

The Smog Inside My Ears

Elise Villarreal

In a black room we became acquainted between cigarette kisses.

You preached, I was sainted between cigarette kisses.

 

I inhaled the holy words you shook through my lungs.

Fell into puffs of smoke. Fainted between cigarette kisses.

 

You colored on top of me with pretty silver lies and layers of black.

The shade of beauty. Painted between cigarette kisses.

 

But my hues are leaking out the cracks of that room where we met.

My perfection, tainted between cigarette kisses.

 

Elise is preaching now, “Leave his ashes where they lie.”

But we’re soon reacquainted between cigarette kisses.

 

Dusty Reflections

Danika Bryant

Particles – dust,

hair, and skin

everywhere.

Hidden from view

they float

through the air, until

light bounces off them,

or they land,

coating the room

in a fine layer.

 

My lips pull

into a smile

when I see them,

glittering and shining

fighting to be remembered.

 

The reflection doesn't last

long, and still

I want to be the light

casting off them.

 

Second Degree Smoke

Sydney Bass

In the back of my alley,

I watch smoke evaporate into the dark,

become nothing.

 

I grew up with this girl

thinking she was like my alley,

or nothing.

 

We walked streets, but not mine.

Her strands of hair would

frizz into the air.

 

Her father worked those Cuban cigars.

Always lighting one after work,

It would bubble.

 

Smoke stalked him home,

filled the house, filled his lungs.

Then disappeared.

 

I Looked at her and saw

she might be filled like her father,

too much for one.

 

So I cut it free, watched crimson

smoke fill my alley. Bubble.

Pop. Evaporate into nothing.

 

Hands Tied

Ashlyn Bashore

Last night, I watched a monarch

flit futilely

around my back-porch.

 

Its wing impaled

on the jagged wire of the window screen

where the wind had pushed it.

 

My mom told me – Never touch

a butterfly. You’ll ruin

their wings. It’ll never

be able to fly.

 

So I just watched.

 

Its powdery scales slid off

in the cold, pelting rain – instead of

my clumsy hands.  

 

I left the porch light on,

an artificial candle

in my useless vigil for a lost king.

 

A Pint in Silence

Danika Bryant

You sat at the bar,

a pint before you.

You were silent,

a slight tint

on your cheeks.

 

And he made note

of changes as they occurred:

A slight slur of speech,

a stumble in the stretch

to the bathroom.

 

Worried looks, whispered

conversations, followed you

as he stayed seated, waiting

for a time you weren't

so aware of the changes happening

as he was, watching

you hum the same melody

under your breath.

 

He calls for his next pint,

eyes following you

through the door,

his lips in a grim smile.

Maybe,

he won't wait next time.

 

Nicaragua: Summer 2k17

Sydney Bass

A girl.

Eyelids smooth like ice,

hide volcanic irises

raging under stones.

 

Sitting behind mountains, oceans, smoky rings.

Reflecting living reds, burnt blacks,

For a moment

 

soundless.

Underneath she tries to

squeeze life out of the Pacific,

only to get shells, stinging salt.

Watching the foam disappear between her toes,

the rock disintegrate under her nails

 

until it's all gone, except for

a handful of post-worthy photos,

freckles plastered to her bare body,

sand pooling in the drain.

 

Escape the Inhospitable

Denver Strong

You think I was forged

by an expert blacksmith,

fit to your finger.

But I’ve frozen you

in a forget-me-knot

plucked from Kaktovik, Alaska.

A Beaufort Sea summer thought.

 

Even in the heat,

the tied

that tried to run

stayed tight.

So pack eskimo attire,

you’re bound for life.

 

I’m a field of snowflakes

70 miles

from the Canadian line.

Touch me, I crumble,

melt away from quality time.

 

Like the ice on the shore,

I’ll come back as water,

begging for more.

 

I promise

to quench your thirst.

Chilling waves

dowse your interior

greeting grave goodbyes,

frisking feelings,

and smothering your soul.

 

Take you back to Alaska,

the vastness of my mind,

where the sun doesn’t peak

for 60 days time.

 

I built a cage

where you can meet

frostbitten hearts

who struggle to escape.

 

I’ll let you get settled,

cool down,

make friends.

**

It may sound

like I enjoy the cold,

but I want the burn,

a friendly ghost,

to thaw my life,

make me leave

the hearts alone.

 

Forget the knots.

Cut them free.

Sail my ice block south,

past the Beaufort Sea.


I’ve been doing this

952 days

and I want to move

to warmer water ways.

 

Jealousy

Cameron White

Spring

is the fresh yawn that spreads the world, enchanted;

And into it, green, we are hurled and planted,

The baby orange blossoms play their first game of peek-a-boo

And we emerge like a weed that must be tended to

 

Summer

is the calm whistle of the wind, holding the leaves in high suspension;

And the clearing where we sense our terrible pretension,

The fruits divulge their strawberry sweetness

Which we take in communion to absorb their completeness

 

Autumn

is the dance the colors play on the toes of the trees;

And we begin to stiffen at our pink disease,

The bounty of the world lays down in catharsis

And we present ourselves, laid bare for our harvest,

 

Winter

is the blanket, warm in spirit for those strawberry sweets,

And a hole in the ground is our sudden caprice;

It holds dear the fir trees, harsh but ever fair.

And buries us, entombed without ever a care.


 

Then let the flower’s bloom never cease,

as we lay solemnly, resting in peace.

It is the way the cyclamen blooms on my grave.

 

The Thoughts That Don't Escape Me

Savannah Hawley

Desire burning like a flame to travel,

I packed my bags, dreaming of flying away.

It was impossible to leave my mind’s Babel.

 

Though I loved my home, my personal castle,

Dreams of foreign lands would loudly convey

Desire burning like a flame to travel.

 

I saw temples where priests once held holy chapel,

Anxiety told me what priests refused to say,

It was impossible to leave my mind’s Babel.

 

Visiting London, Paris, New York, Seattle,

I went around the world in 80 days with a

Desire burning like a flame to travel.

 

All ties to my old life I broke with a shatter,

The past I tried to forget extended its stay.

It was impossible to leave my mind’s Babel.

 

I returned with enough stories to fill a novel,

Yet to my thoughts I always fell prey.

Desire burning like a flame to travel,

It was impossible to leave my mind’s Babel.

 

The Blame Game

Danika Bryant

It wasn't my fault –

all the fights.

I walked away.

 

Still you say

I should have noticed,

I shouldn't have –

Made it worse.

 

It seems I'm still learning

the ins and outs

of the field

filled with corn and beans,

creating crop circles

as I run. Still the cause

of echoes

heard for miles.

 

But I can't speak,

defend myself –

fight back –

without the manicured

claws gripping

my neck, and the pearls

of your mouth

flashing as you scream

my name.

 

So I scream

where I can't be heard.

 

The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife

Anna Borgert

You went out in a storm

once, like you had many times before,

but forgot your torch

as you strove to pull

a sailor out of the foam.

 

You couldn’t see the rocks

beneath the waves that

caught your foot and toppled you

into the brine, where

the sea sipped at your bones,

swallowed you whole.

 

I was freshly a woman when we built this home.

My hands, my heart, were soft and un-calloused.

You told me that the blue never swallows her children—

perhaps you were not of her brood after all.

 

You have been taken 10 years or more, and

I have grown cold and hard beside

the crushing ocean.

She is unforgiving, I know,

but I never used to be.

 

Tonight, I lit the beacon on

a raging sea, and there

in the swells I saw

the fragments of a frigate

twisting around a hand—

waving like a white flag,

grasping for salvation.

 

The hope that sang in your breast

lies silent in mine.

Kindness is not a luxury of the survivor.

 

I shuttered the window and

turned away.

 

Invaders

Elise Villarreal

Pain is blueprinted

in this concrete cranium.

 

It sits comfortably

between the concaving cracks.

 

Slips like a serpent

under the surface of these superficial

 

thoughts that invade my mind like cockroaches,

scattering from the light of reality.

 

But pest control’s number is taped to the fridge.

And blueprints can always be redrawn.

 

Flashing Lights

Skylah Writer

I pull over and put my hands on the steering wheel.

 

Kevin Higgenbotham. 2016. Called 911 to report trespassers on his property. Beaten with batons until he fell into a coma. Charles Kinsey. 2016. Laying on the ground with hands in the air. Gunshot. Survived. Tawon Boyd. 2016. 911 called for medical help. Died in police custody. Terrence Crutcher. 2016. Walking on highway. Stalled vehicle. Gunshot. Sylville Smith. 2016. Traffic stop. Gunshot. Phialndo Castile. 2016. Traffic stop. Gunshot. Alton Sterling. 2016. Selling bootleg CD’s. Gunshot. Wendell Celestine Jr. 2016. Asleep in his car. Asphyxiation. Randy Nelson. 2016. Struggled with medics over mental health issue. Died in police custody. Michael Tyree. 2015. Mentally ill inmate. Died in police custody. Freddie Gray. 2015. Possession of a weapon. Spinal cord injury. Died in police custody. Sandra Bland. 2015. Traffic stop. Failure to signal. Died in police custody. Ruled suicide by autopsy. Michael Brown. 2014. Altercation with police officer. Gunshot. Tamir Rice. 2014. Possession of a toy gun. Two seconds to shoot a twelve-year-old. Twice. Eric Garner. 2014. Selling loosies. Tried to stop a fight. Chokehold. Trayvon Martin. 2012. Altercation with a neighborhood watch coordinator. Looked suspicious wearing a hoodie. Gunshot. Elliot Williams. 2011. Misdemeanor obstruction. Broken neck and dehydration. Died in police custody. Anthony Lamar Smith. 2011. Leaving a drug deal. Shot at five times by officer with an AK47. Gun found on deceased was planted by police officer. Amadou Diallo. 1999. Shot at 42 times. Struck 19 times. Matched general description of a serial rapist. Rodney King. 1991. DUI. 11 facial fractures, permanent brain damage, broken bones and teeth, kidney failure. 3,446 blacks lynched in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968. 24% of that done in the past three alone. Jesse Washington. 1916. Laura Nelson. 1911. George Meadows. 1889. Margaret Garner: she killed her baby to avoid slavery. Anna J. Cooper. Frederick Douglas. George Washington Carver. We’ve been bred for this.

 

“I’m losing my breath.”          “Fuck your breath.”

“I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.”

“Please don’t let me die.”

“I can’t breathe.”

“Mom, I’m going to college.”

“What are you following me for?”

“Officer, why did you shoot me?”                         “I don’t know.”

 

    “Going to kill this motherfucker.”

 

“That looks like a bad dude.”

 

Dylann Storm Roof. “He was very quiet.” Mass Murderer. Killed 9 blacks in the Charleston church shooting. 16 hours on the run. Given a bulletproof vest when taken into custody. Taken to Burger King. “Very calm. He was hungry. He was not problematic.”

 

The officer taps my window, “license and registration, please?”

And I wonder if he’d be willing

to hand me his gun.

 

The Devil Drums On

Denver Strong

This cold metal stool is my recliner,

the mahogany counter, my end table.

I’ve got a shot glass in my right hand,

six bullets in my left,

encased by a revolver.

 

My right hand pulls the trigger

and the brandy burns my throat.

Struck by lightning

and scorched,

I exhale smoke.

 

My left gets cocky, too.

It swings,

aims at the band.

A deafening gunshot

floods the room.

Vocals screech to an end,

but guitar strings continue to echo

in the rusty midnight air

and a snare patters

like the rain on the roof.

They always play the blues

when I’m the only drunk still here.


 

I order five shots of bourbon

set in a row

ready to be downed by a firing squad.

 

Shot for shot,

my right hand drops the hammer

as lightning cracks across the sky;

my left starts to fire

in sync with the thunder outside.

 

One for the bartender,

I have my liquid courage.

 

Another empty glass,

another empty shell

while the bass drum amplifies

the storm’s bellowing roar.

The guitar man falls with a thud.

 

I toast the drummer

and turn away as I fire.

A cymbal rings.

A wooden thud.

A ricochet.

 

The rain stops for a brief moment.

There’s a final lightning strike

and, with two hands, I pray.

The gun pushes the flesh under my jaw.

I pull the trigger.

 

The bass booms in the bar

breaking the drum head.

Cymbals crash as a limp body

clashes with the floor.

 

Simply

the scurry of a snare continues.

Until the drummer walks out

into the dying rain.

 

Rose Bouquet

Tehya Morgan

Laying on a frigid, damp floor

in a gloomy old room;

A reminder.

 

An indication of overwhelming euphoria,

when everything was

floral and pleasant.

 

The heart of one

scattered like pollen

drifting through the air.

A reminder of intimidating passion.

 

A lump of

faded greens,

dusty reds,

once firm and fragrant

now withered away.

 

El Jarabe en Ultratumba

Elise Villarreal

6 feet under

there is a party,

alive with bar music.

 

Tightly wound guitar strings

plucked like wild daisies,

with a snapping tug.

 

The smells of heavy dirt

and spilt liquor

pack the space,

 

along with the sunken souls

of washed up salsa dancers and gypsies,

swallowing down their regret.

 

The syrup of life

drips down exposed spines,

rich and vibrant.

 

Each drop that strikes the floor

sings

with a musical note.

 

A sound much deeper

than any casket caked in mud,

or bellowing bass string buzz.
 

All souls dance, twirl, and spin,

drowning under the waves of ruffling skirts

and gallons of dry liquor.

 

A whisper moves through the room.

“Nunca dejes de bailar.”

It’s all they know now.

 

But pitchers served to the dead,

can’t rejuvenate a fire

caged behind 24 pearly ribs.

 

So on they dance, beneath the grass.

Bones swaying to the music,

like wind chimes in the stagnant breeze.