When the House Floods in Wyoming
1 girls whose hair makes a choppy, curled C around the nape of the neck
2 bare shoulder blades with dark swaths of ink between
3 the strained look of a neckline pulled too high—skin struggling to be seen
4 fuck looking into eyes—look into mouths, see the holes gnawed by nervous teeth, gnashing cheeks, the myrtle tiredness she keeps tucked under her tongue—almost said (almost)
5 knowing: that is who she is.
6 knowing: this is what you are.
7 knowing: this is what you have to be.
lunch, sunsoaked for mindy
the light is thick butter yellow wash over everything and e wants to know
what my favorite book is while
mindy & olivia tell him which girl they’d most like to kiss
and i say that i don’t know because i haven’t found it yet
(i haven’t really found the girl, either)
the light is melting yellow inside my mouth and nose when tommy
asks me to finish his sandwich and his smoke because he can’t
without feeling sick
i eat & smoke for him
and he listens to reggae with his headphones jammed in
and he doesn’t look up
and when my stomach is about to collapse in on itself
i know it’s not because of the mayonnaise or
the light is burning yellow boil on my blistering skin the first day he
ever asks me to eat with him and my back is still sore
from lunches spent alone
and mindy & olivia sing a song i don’t know and
his words are dry and sour inside me but
i eat with them again the next day
and ally used to eat with us sometimes, when the light was thin and white
told me about the books she was reading, the ones she didn’t understand
but that was before she went to the hospital for so long
the light is thick butter yellow wash over everything and it makes
us look simpler than we are
and i don’t understand why the sun is always bene-
volent in books
Understand how hallucinations are generated outside of the laboratory.
Understand that a loop is in control, yet characterized
by imaginings of ghosts, noises, visions,
Understand the particular set of points, in this two-
dimensional space, that produces learning.
Understand the nonmaterial stuff lost
when the retina is removed.
Understand that naïveté and idealism are perfect targets
for the increasing need to experiment with
Understand the momentary transient effect caused by random coils
and easily broken attachments, and that
these are another way to stabilize
(another way to give rise to) equilibrium
(an electric field.)
Understand the wife of the missing Arctic explorer.
Understand that she preached mightily, and not as the scribes.
Understand that the private letters clearly reveal his conviction.
Understand that water
is even more important than Earth’s early history,
the indispensable matrix between sleep and waking, and that life is only
projections of the prose.
Understand that the biological scheme of things is a simple mistaken condition of the mind,
while a contentious “Rosy” is the midst of a larger revolution
(and our last option).
Prayer for Athena
with colored hearts, the tall flowers
sway around you, all the other boys,
in cold spring, as the violets open.
1 The back of the neck will stay warm, even if everything else is cold.
2 Blue marks always look passive and pretty, in the summer.
3 Bravery cannot be patronized.
4 Athena doesn’t love me.
Athena, goddess of eight-year-old girls who only read when the teacher says to, who prefer their deities human but don’t know it yet—children, the offspring of illiterate poets, children who learn about war before wisdom. Athena, I plan on dying before becoming wise and Athena, I will fail.
Give me violet bruises that feel wrong even when pressed the right way. Athena, bless my neck with cuts and aches and my spine with a straight edge. Deliver me from warm, gentle wind. Deliver me from the cavalry of little girls. I will fail you, Athena, I will fail you if I can’t fight. Deliver me from the schism in my head.
Spiders weave their webs between my lips and olive branches keep me planted to this useless beach while battles burn—and the soldiers die for me but they’re murmuring your name, a breathy howl, a slow drip from their wounds and open mouths—but it’s not the right sound and I will fail you.
Lucy Wainger, Age 15, Grade 10, Stuyvesant High School, Gold Key