Performances by Alyssa McPherson ’13 & Flannery James ’14

DPF Large Color LogoAlyssa McPherson ’13 and Flannery James ’14 performed their poetry at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on October 24, 2014. For details click on the Creative Writing News. Below is a video of Flannery’s reading, followed by the poems read by both Flannery and Alyssa. Enjoy!

Honesty by Alyssa McPherson

I will be honest about how I am feeling.
I am a big ball of regrets: curled in on
Myself, hard, scaling,
Mottled greenandgray, and flaking a little at the edges.
Each night I lie down to sleep on a bed of thorns,
Each prick reminding me of all I have neglected
To do during the day:
“say goodbye before you leave for work.
look your boss in the eye when she’s speaking to you.
bump into the One (capital O).
skip your usual sugar with two teaspoons of coffee.
find a purpose of life that rings true
and is marketable to concerned relatives.
call back your grandmother and spare her the embarrassment
of leaving a sixth voicemail in that hopeful mumble
you can’t bear.
mean it when you ask someone
and stop walking long enough to hear the answer.
I will be honest: some nights I sit bolt up-right,
Convinced my chest is aching from the weight
Of all I haven’t done.
It is indigestion.
And I’ve realized my daily headaches
Are caused by me grinding my teeth into oblivion.
They give us a lot of good advice these days,
Gleaming silver spoons laden with molten potential:
Follow your passion.
Dance like nobody is watching.
Don’t look down.
Nobody tells you that
Passion is expensive,
That dancing alone in front of your mirror makes your lonely footsteps too loud,
That not looking down is pointless because
The source of your fear isn’t anywhere down there; it’s up here.
I will be honest: my throat is dry and cracked
With all the wanting I am doing.
Some days I feel like
a big ball of want: curled in on
Myself, hard, scaling,
Mottled greenandgray, and flaking a little at the edges.
I will be honest: I can’t sit through
A kissing scene with my parents; the expectations
I have yet to fulftill gather too thickly in the
Air between us.
I will be honest: on public transport I gaze
Out of the window as intently as possible,
Fantasizing that someone will sit beside me
And ask what I’m thinking about. (Secretly
Everyone thinks life is a movie. (Life imitates art, and
Always has)).
I will be honest: insecurity and indecision are my best friends,
And together the three of us describe our ideal boyfriends
Over chai mocha lattes
And come up with names for our future children
(one boy and one girl, preferably twins).
I will be honest: I look at old pictures of me
And wonder what happened.
I will be honest: I wish I could write out my future
In blood-red ink,
Because blood makes things true,
But real blood makes me nauseous.
I will be honest: I wish that merging creationism
With evolution didn’t feel so uncomfortably PC,
Because God would make the very best scapegoat.
I will be honest: I wish I said “thank you” more and
“I’m sorry” less. Tomorrow, that sentiment will be reversed.
I will be honest: ending on a sentimental note feels
Proper, but it also feels
Too easy.

“Fold” by Flannery James

Pavement doesn’t fold well. Neither do
pillows. I am learning that papier mache is
nothing like paper. The man I thought I
loved turned out to be an origami doll. Some days
he is a flower, delicate and honest. Other
days he is a frog. It is a good thing
we have no children. I’ve killed
every tadpole I’ve owned.
When he is a crane and tricks me into
bringing him into the garden, I tie
fishing line around him. A harness fine as
cobwebs. So he can’t lose me.
If I have left him too long between
the pages of a book, he tucks himself into
the shape of a clumsy heart. One day I come
home to find a paper goldfish contemplating
my journal. “How many people
could these pages make?” he asks me.
He is already folding himself
into something with hands.

“Sestina for a Sleepwalker” by Flannery James

She is awakened by her somnambulant
feet, slipping back beneath the threadbare quilt.
The midnight air holds traces
of Arctic cold, brought on the backs of northern
geese winging in to settle the edge
of frosty mirrors-for-the-moon.
Under the frigid, window-framed moon
the wolf-dog rises, somnambulant,
and pads the silent carpet-edge
and against the drowsy quilt-
wrapped form, nudges his long, northern
nose, a remnant of ancestry that traces
back to wolves. His wild tail traces
slow circles, round as the moon
on a night when even the brilliant northern
lights are outshone. Tonight, the somnambulant
stars march across a patchwork quilt
sky to meet the girl waiting at its edge.
She perches on the edge
of the window seat, and with a finger traces
labyrinthine shapes on the cold glass, mimicking quilt
patterns sewed by her grandmother, many moon-
rises ago. The quilt and the somnambulant
feet are inherited, distinctly northern
traits. Outside, constellations condense; the northern
star sets the forest edge
aglow. In this blue radiance she sees the somnambulant
shapes of trees bent low by ice—traces
of winter everywhere, even in the snowy moon,
its light thrown over the land like a downy quilt.
The dog joins her under the quilt,
his blood now not so northern
that the savage call of the moon
pulls him to the edge
of wolfishness. Her hand traces
through his fur automatically, somnambulant.
And while he is content with the edge of the quilt,
she longs for a furry northern coat, and for traces of wolfish blood
in her nose, and to howl at the somnambulant moon.


This entry was posted in Poetry and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.