Alyssa 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 McPhersonI 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 “howareyou” 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 JamesPavement 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 JamesShe 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.