Poetry

 

Not unlike honey, or a paper sticker

Jessica Sloan

Love is like coke
spilled on the dining table
and left for three weeks.
It’s a cheap lint roller
or those colorful goo hands
we used to smack against everything as kids.
It’s an envelope full of glitter.
Weeks after you’ve used and discarded it
you find hints of it on your body.
The shower drain catches sparkling hairs.
A shine sticks to the corner of your mouth,
like soda.
It’s a lava cake, or it’s mud masks.
It’s a vibrant pink lip gloss, or warm mac and cheese.


It smacks of pleasure,
something that never changes,
or something that changes you
with every touch.

Groundskeeper

Thomas Hennelley

You’d be surprised how many people don’t know
how grass gets them light ‘nd dark stripes.
Like the fairways of a golf course, you know?
We get out there early when there’s more mornin’ dew than actual grass.
‘bout five in the mornin’ early, still chilly out,
when summer days ain’t feel like summer yet.
They never really do anymore though, do they?


It’s a pretty course to begin with, we’re just out there to make it look better.
Fairways get cut all nice, straight stripes. The mowers roll the grass, pushes it over.
The sun bounces off of it different to your eyes, you know? Gets mowed every day.
Seems like overkill but hey, I ain’t in charge.


Golfers don’t appreciate the bunkers enough neither.
We get em nice ‘nd combed up like they got a hot date later that day. Real nice, crisp curves.
Also gotta care for the hedges ‘round the clubhouse. Get ‘em trimmed up into spheres
so perfect they’re almost unnatural.


The course was built on a forest preserve. Boy, was that forest pretty too.
I walked through it tons with my momma when I was a kid. My daughter ‘nd I
walked through there tons when she was younger too. We’re a nature family.
We’d walk through the trees, down to the stream, just to sit ‘round.
She’d ask ‘bout the different birds ‘nd trees, where the river came from ‘nd went off to,
how wildflowers always grew back after they died, if animals did alright durin’ winters.
Why they were gonna replace it all with a golf course. I answered the best I could.


I ain’t seen any of them ol’ wildflowers pop up. The trees are all silky willows, clones.
The flowin’ river is just a pond now, with a little fountain in it.
My daughter doesn’t come ‘round here with me no more,
‘nd neither do the birds she used to ask ‘bout.
Not that I ever had good answers for her anyway.


But boy do we make this course look nice.

 

Fishing, Breathing

Thomas Hennelley

I remember our fishing trips.


Father, you would catch nothing
while I caught a bit of everything.
You would laugh it off,
dip your line back in the water.
I would watch my fish
dry up on land.
Its eyes bulged and its scales
curled as they crisped.


We’d return home where our
mismatched chairs clawed
at our old wood floors.
Fists hammered the tables,
silverware rattled and clinked.
Shouting seeped through
my cracked bedroom door.
You and mother never knew
how to keep it quiet.
I slept through the night
only when you were gone.
Though falling asleep was like
a fish gasping for air, wheezing.


You would apologize, blame mother
for why you took off,
then tell me I was why you came back.
I don't remember you
ever saying you wouldn’t leave
again.


I was a child then. I fish alone now.


Now I throw the fish back,
to let them live on.
As they pierce the surface,
I hear the satin of your coffin
thudding shut;
I can breathe easy again.

 

Light Meal

Heather Jackson

Your orbital bone holds
a jellied eye.
Without,
it is merely a hollow
teacup. Thin porcelain.


I’d scoop out the eye
like an egg from its cup.
Twist the retina from its shell
like escargot.


I’d see the bone’s layers, unbaked sfogliatelle.
Shivering cracks run the cavern,
mirroring the eye’s capillaries.
I could pick off pieces—
crackling bruttiboni.
Like melting ice chips…


But I won’t.
I softly cup your orbital bone—
half my palm—
afraid it will crumple,
a frail
empty egg.

 

Boyz in the Hood

Tavarus Pennington

This ain’t a movie,
no one’s gonna stop watching.
I’ve been tryna prove something,
when no one’s around,
when it’s all, including my thoughts,
harassing me.

My life ain’t a feature,
for ABC at primetime,
for your entertainment.

I know what this means,
that ‘Boyz in the Hood’ was just a tale,
that Ricky never died,
and I remained alive.

I tried to mimic you,
establish my gait,
so no one could fuck with me,
I’d square my shoulders,
if you was tryna fight me.

And when my boys were ‘round,
we ran shit,
we smoked blunts and poured 40’s up to concrete,
we marched through the street,
we lived,

unafraid of defeat.

And on the verge of collapse,
our scene in action,
our street,
teetering,
tottering.

Still not enough for a distraction,
couched in the periphery,
a dark, essential planet,
blind to the light.

The silver screen illuminates,
blind to their plight,
and the curtain is drawn,
to reveal
we were never gone.

 

But I Didn't

Isabel Warden

In second grade, I wanted to tell a boy that I liked his shoes. 

But I didn’t. 

 

In third grade, I wanted to ask my friend why she was crying. 

But I didn’t. 

 

In fourth and fifth grade, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to buy 

clothes, jewelry, anything to make me fit in.

But I didn’t. 

 

In sixth grade, I wanted to no longer be friends with a girl. 

I wanted to tell her that I was sorry for ditching her, apologize 

for excluding her. 

But I didn’t.

 

In seventh grade, I wanted to call out a teacher for encouraging 

me to wear makeup to be included by my peers. I wanted to tell 

her that I was depressed, that I was sad, that she and my peers 

made me feel insecure about my developing body.

But I didn’t. 

 

In eighth grade, I wanted to tell my parents that I had a crush 

on a girl. 

But I didn’t. 

 

In my freshman year, I got into my first relationship. The boy 

I loved quickly turned into an emotionally abusive tyrant. He 

threatened to hurt himself if I ever tried to break up with him. 

I wanted to end things. 

But I didn’t.

 

In the summer, I got away from that boy. I wanted to transfer 

schools, longing to get away from an environment where I no 

longer felt loved. 

But I didn’t.

 

In my sophomore year, I was suffering from depression. I wanted 

to die. 

But I didn’t. 

 

In my junior year, I connected with a boy. I thought it would 

make me feel better, make my depression go away. Make me 

feel less alone.

But it didn’t. 

 

In my senior year, I wanted to call everyone out. For taking me 

for granted, for making me feel insignificant for YEARS. 

But I didn’t. 

 

In my Thanksgiving break, a boy and I broke up. I wanted to 

cry, beg, ask what I did wrong and what drove him away. 

But I didn’t. 

 

The other day, I had nothing to lose. I wanted to stay in my 

dorm and never come out. 

But I didn’t. 

 

I needed to get ready. I needed to take off my clothes to 

shower. 

But I didn’t. 

 

I showered in my clothes. I thought I would regret it.

But I didn’t. 

 

For the first time in weeks, I was able to make myself smile 

with the absurdity of showering in my clothes. I still felt 

like I wanted to cry.

But I didn’t. 

 

I smiled, I laughed, I sang. I was able to make myself happy. 

I thought I would feel weird. 

But I didn’t. 

 

But I didn’t. 

But I didn’t. 

But I didn’t. 

 

I then realized that my life has been full of “But I didn’t”s. 

I didn’t think about that before.

But I did. 

 

I did think about it. I don’t want my life to be full of things

that I didn’t do. I want more “But I did”s. And that’s what 

I’m trying to do. 

 

Go for that class. Ask the person you like out on a date. Don’t 

be afraid to be loud, to be powerful, to be you. Don’t think, 

“But I didn’t” at the end of your life. 

 

I thought that I would never be showing this to the world. 

 

But I did.

But I did. 

But I did.

 
 

Snail Mail

Savannah Hawley

I tried to find a picture of us

To introduce you to the new world I’m in

I found old memories instead

 

The postcard on my desk comes to life

Filled with words I wish I could speak

 

I count the time in terms of mail delivery

The cost of postage listed under necessity

 

The mailbox greets me

A reminder that I exist somewhere else 

 

We stay frozen

Despite the seasons changing

Despite everything changing

 

The individual torn from the pair

By an ocean and a lack of words

 

Make a memory with my stories

I’ll pretend I’m in yours

 

Our tales create puzzle pieces

We can use to cross the Atlantic 

 

Life is beautiful, wish you were here

 

I Went for a Walk

Tavarus Pennington

The whisper of our dear willow tree hums along, 

its breath coated by doubt.


This doubt I can feel like pinecone pricks,

coaxing me towards the end of the earth.


Past forest greenery, alongside the north winds,

push through the hymnals of elation the clouds sing.


Spurs gauged in the heel of my feet,

I cannot rest here, on the bed of timber and driftwood.


Brazen forest of the hills, see me as I saw you,

rolling like the slick back of a tortoise.


Slow and steady, speak this creed

and fear naught.


The pathways etched in soil, congruent with the veins of a parched Earth

hellfire toasts our soles, soot caked on the edges.

Suffocating aridity drains the trees of their leaves,

slowly they twirl toward scorched earth.

 

 

Sandstone Geodes

Heather Jackson

You have to step on the thorny bush, else it’ll snag your jeans.
You HAVE to wear jeans. And boots.
But your sneakers might work too.
Though you’ll get these stickers running all up and down your socks.
Stickers? They’re these little thorns and seeds
No, it’s not a stupid name!


Oh, watch out for that honey locust.
My uncle got a thorn in his leg once. They’ve got barbs on them, like a harpoon. Well.
It’s not dangerous—if we keep back.
And don’t even think about playing chicken.
I’ll bet the thorns even stick up from the roots.


Careful down the hill. We’re almost to the prairie.
It’s got tons of sandstone geodes, tons, like dragon eggs.
All old and smooth like river stones.
I like to hold them tight—
maybe my heat will make them hatch
someday.


Look, see the cows? Way out.
They’re not my Grandpa’s anymore. He got too old to—


Yeah, you can just look around. The geodes are everywhere.
Oh, here’s a nice one! Look! Like a baseball.
They don’t have crystals, they’re filled with quartz dust and obsidian.
See the shards on the ground?
They’re all glassy and sharp.


But listen. If you shake… Hear the soft rattle? Like salt.
You should look around too, dig—


Yeah, it’s a little cold. But only a little,
and you can find your own geodes.
I collect them. I have so many,
and you can have a dragon egg of your own.


Here, hold my geode.
It was made millions of years ago
from lava and heat.
It’ll keep you warm.


Well…we’re not THAT far from the house.
Your mom’ll be fine about it.

And I know this place. I know it better than anyone!
You just have to imagine that dragon fire
and you’ll be warm.


Well.
Okay.


You can have my geode, if you really want it.
We can go back, I guess.

 

 

Morning Mom Madness

Sierra Seller

Hi, how are you? I’m not quite sure what I’d like to order, I’ve been here a million times, but I 

think I want to try something new. Oh gosh, my hair is such a mess. I didn’t have time to get my 

makeup on or anything this morning. The kids were refusing to wake up and get ready for 

school because they went to bed late last night, they had a rough time potty-training our 

puppy. And my husband said I made the coffee too strong, so I had to brew another pot before 

he left for work. Ooo, did you just get your nails done? Let me see, I love that color. I haven’t 

had my nails done in forever, my cuticles are so embarrassing. I’d like to make it to the salon, 

but my days are always filled with errands and cleaning up the kids’ rooms. And grocery 

shopping is such a nightmare! But I have to get it done before picking up Hailey and Nick from 

soccer practice. And Matt needs dinner made by the time he gets home from work, he doesn’t 

like waiting for his meal when he’s had a long day.Is that sticker on your nametag from Dancing 

With The Stars? I noticed the logo! I missed last night’s episode, and the week before... I really 

want to catch up on it. But you know, I have to get the dishes washed from dinner and that darn 

puppy gives the kids a heck of a time, they can’t do it alone so I always help them. And I have to 

get Matt’s clothes ready for work the next morning, he doesn’t like taking the time to pick 

them out himself. Oh no, look at the line behind me and all of those people. I’m so sorry, I’m 

just rambling, I’m totally okay. It’s just life, I’m used to the chaos. You think I should take time 

for myself? It’s okay, I love my husband and my kids, and they need me to do these things for 

them. I mean after all, that’s what mothers are supposed to do, right? But I would like to try 

that nail color soon. Oh shoot, look at the time, I’m gonna be late to the post-office. I guess I’ll 

get my usual, a Venti Iced White Chocolate Mocha please. 

 

 
 

Jewell 129

Sierra Seller

One whiff of your musty, damp scent pulls

me to the place in my childhood where I

spent days stuck in my imagination. 

It was the only entertainment I had. 

Your scent is like my grandma’s dingy

basement. It stains my mind like the bitter

aftertaste of day-old coffee. 

Your ugly yellow wallpaper,

like my grandmother walls

coated with cigarette smoke. 

Your floorboards creak like the steps

down to what felt like a dungeon.

Cracked cement walls, my feet

shivering on stone-cold floors. 

I venture to the abandoned rooms

wondering why my grandmother left them

to live on their own. 

But the silence is so loud. And I’m

back. 

I look for something significant, to

remember the alleged fun I made,

but you give me nothing. 

Nothing but the reminder of that suffocating stench.

 

Silent

          with a Porous Skin

Tavarus Pennington

When the woozy Sun returns to rest

              we cease

                            growing,

                            the air is so        suffocating.
A frigid calm follows

              isolation,

                            my dry tendrils desire

                            another to          inspire growth.
The dirt

              disparaged

                            the dirty antithesis,

                            photo                  synthesis.
Our porcupine exterior,

              splinter

                            of the earth

                            seeking              blood.

Peaks ascend the dirt at the edge of my ground

              sparkling

                            calm blue light, beyond

                            stretching           barrenness.
It gets lonely here,

              solace

                            is accompanied by the smooth of a

                            razor                   sharpened.

Lonely desert,

              but still alive.

 

 

Return from Oz

Kaitlyn O'Neal

And I tried to get back for days and days.

It wasn’t a dream. It was a place.


But I’m back now, half-waking, to find

the prairie aching in its baked sepia tones

while summer berries groan in their preserve jars,

their colors leeching out like dawn stars

fading under high noon’s drone.


The bed has lost my shape now;

once it held my shadow pressed into its down.

Auntie’s face shimmers, just shy of familiar;

I remembered broader smiles, thinner frowns.

Our pots and pans have found a new order;

It takes me ages to prepare our suppers.


When I landed, the neighbors came

to greet me back again.

It’s over, they say.

Never again must you face the horror

of this world in merciless technicolor.

They shake their heads that I found my way

by yellow brick, not grey.

Shame they will never see my pink-tinged skin

draped in dream-blue gingham.


The beige spade blends too easily with my hands.

Farm land folds me tight, tries to make amends.

Soybeans sprout where corn once stood.

The horizon stoops out of sight.

Me and Toto, we wander. We roam.

I’m beginning to think there really is no place like home.

 

 

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© 2020 WJCInscape

 

William Jewell College

500 College Hill

Liberty, MO 64068

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