May 2019


Hill-Stead Museum is thrilled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its Fresh Voices Student Poetry Competition by presenting the work of six incredibly talented young writers on Theodate. A beloved component of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, this competition has introduced countless emerging student poets to one of the country’s most receptive audiences and is part of the museum’s ongoing commitment to promoting poetry and creative arts initiatives in schools across Connecticut.

The culmination of this highly-selective program was a performance by the winners on the main stage, before a live audience, on the closing night of the festival. I am certain you will enjoy the Sunken Garden debut of these talented students.

Susan E. Ballek
Executive Director & CEO Hill-Stead Museum

2018 Fresh Voices Poetry Competition Winners

Vanecia Fultz – Rockville High School
Rachel Justice – Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts
Sarah Lewis – Hall High School
Ellis McGinley – Arts at the Capitol Magnet School
Youssef Mezrioui – Rockville High School
Alex Nordlund – Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts

The 2017 Fresh Voices Chapbook is available for sale in the Museum Shop.


Venecia Fultz attends Rockville High School, where she enjoys singing and writing poetry. She belongs to the slam team Paper Voices in Manchester. She would like to thank her Mom for supporting her and Ms. Victoria Nordlund for believing in her writing and for pushing her out of her comfort zone.
Seventeen-year-old Rachel Justice is approaching her senior year at Enfiled High and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She studies Creative Writing and Media Arts. Rachel hopes someday to have a career in graphic design while continuing her passion for poetry on the side. She is often inspired by family hardship and credits Megan Collins-Hatfield, her poetry teacher, for her success.

I am an Imposter

Lopez made me Hispanic by default
Regretting being assigned to a culture feen,
my mother thought it would encourage me to learn
only making me think of my mirror.
My native tongue hates me so much.
If refused to work with me.
Taking off days when Spanish projects were due,
and family reunions we scheduled.
“Your mother should of taught you.”
I wonder if my mother cries at night,
just like me knowing
I slaughtered the root connecting our family back to the motherland.
Fultz makes me the roadblock of our ethnicity.
I wonder if my mother
regrets having a pale skinned baby that never let her culture
sweep beneath her wings.
I am Puerto Rican
But if you talk to me in Spanish,
I will get lost in the wave of
Nosotros somos uno y nunca seremos iguales.
But don’t quote me –
I Google translated that too.
I wonder if my mom hates me I tell her
“Mom i’m not faking if i feel something”.
My two left feet force my body to the dance floor
Doing the silent three step bachata
my heart drops, along with my aunt,
because Marc Anthony shared the same land
as my native ancestors
My voice sings the un poquito,
song lyrics I know from
Daddy Yankee, Farruko, Nicky Jam
Mom you raised an imposter,
but I don’t fake what I feel
even if what I feel I can’t understand.

Follow me on Instagram.

Im prettier on there.
Beauty sheltering itself
under ever, double tap, heart eye emoji, great with a capital 8.
Follow me on Instagram.
Poetic caption
with drown your feed
Tilted angles with a floral filter
will sink your self esteem.
But don’t worry about
Turning your brightness up
I’ll already be the brightest
object on your timeline.
My false advertisement
will never be a link in my bio,
letting you know that the one thing I hate the most is myself.
But self-hatred
auto correct to self positivity
because no one
likes to infer suicide mission
in a selfie caption.
When was the last time you
snapchatted me a tear,
a frown of self-doubt,
an un-smile?
Videotaped panic attacks
reblogged a final regret.
When was the last time you
looked into a mirror?
Untouched and filterless
Would you actually double click
your own image?
Hatred has never updated its
status letting us know
it’s logging off.
yet, post pictures
of hate crimes written all over
our timelines.
We blame all this
violence and judgment on society,
but society does not
reblog, retweet, screenshot, lol like or comment.
Society does not comment
we never hold ourselves
accountable for our own mistakes
but blame the device in our hands
our world does not revolve
around an axis –
it revolves around the keyboards
of our computers.
We lost our personality
while putting our thumb prints
into our phones.
We lost our voice
once keyboards
were more relatable than
The letter that spilled from our tongues.

I Waited for You to Call

As the clock on my phone inched to 1 am.
I closed my eyes knowing a sea of exhaustion would
drown me into a paralyzing state of insomnia.
But my body caved your voice as if it was the last drop of scotch
on an alcoholics tongue.
But I didn’t care.
You are my addiction and my rehab
I waited for you to call,
to hear the soft breaths you take after every sentence blow air into the valley
of unfinished sentences cut off by my laughter-
But nothing was ever that funny.
You always asked me why I laughed so much.
My laughter was my I love you and my snorts were my promises
I will always find something about you to adore.
Even when the conversation gets boring and my vocal cords protect me
from expressing my affection,
I waited for you to call.
Now you cut the conversations short as if you’re on the phone with your mother
and none of your chores are done.
Now I am a constant bill collector asking you to renew your membership
to the Love Venecia Foundation.
Now you wait for a girl with eyes that enlighten the room, a girl whose smile
makes you feel as if searching for love wasn’t about finding a person,
but finding peace within a girl that was my closest friend
I waited for you to call,
But little did you know,
while you ignored my calls like stepchildren,
sent my messages to junk mail along with my pride,
she was doing the same to you.

Yesterday My Stomach Asked Me Why I Hated Her So Much.

She makes my abdominal ache and whimpered
I would do anything for you too look at me
the same way you do them.
My hand sympathized with her,
hushing her, and reassuring it was not her but me.
My shoulders stiffened
snapping at me
my shoulders rolled her joints asking why I didn’t like her.
I told her tiger stripes aren’t really my thing
I told her that I hated seeing the American flag
while I put on a bathing suit.
My thighs asked me why I never let them be in public.
Told me I was selfish for not showing off a prize.
My thighs rubbed each other for comfort,
reminding me the only time I touch them
is when I am nervous or need them to separate.
I huffed I through my breath across the room and turned my back
facing the mirror
making eye contact with my stretch marks.
Giving myself whiplash trying to avoid them like an ex.
My back asked why I didn’t think she was beautiful?
I told her I can’t find beauty in rolls.
I am tired of searching through them like history books.
you wonder why I don’t find you beautiful,
but wouldn’t you get tired of having to convince yourself
that somewhere under the cellulite and
excess skin you will never be able to exile off your body
you are someone’s one in a couple billion?
I made eye contact with myself
I asked; Instead of you wondering why I don’t love you
why don’t you give me reasons to.


Seventeen-year-old Rachel Justice is approaching her senior year at Enfiled High and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She studies Creative Writing and Media Arts. Rachel hopes someday to have a career in graphic design while continuing her passion for poetry on the side. She is often inspired by family hardship and credits Megan Collins-Hatfield, her poetry teacher, for her success.


Daddy tells me that
if anything goes wrong,
slip him rat poison. That
everyone would think he just
overdosed on his Warfarin.

Momma and I jokingly fight
at the dinner table over who
gets his valve when he dies.
She argues he’s her husband.
I argue he’s my dad.

We choose to forget
how they opened my father’s chest
like a flower. How he bloomed
on that operating table
in a white room.

We choose to forget
how weird it was, clearly hearing

the click click tick of his heart
when he made it back home.
How silence, save for that clock,
meant he was still ours.

How he was not joking.
How my father had open heart surgery,
only to ask me
to kill him anyway.


 We carry pizza boxes too big for our arms
to the trash can inside the barn, and we only

have the glow of the moon, so we huddle together with our
phone flashlights, our greasy cardboard, and the matchbox

from your parents’ wedding you let me pocket
as a souvenir, pressing its shape against my thigh.

I almost told you to kiss me right there, suddenly in love
under the bare-bulbed moon, covered with footprints somewhere.

And I wonder if Neil Armstrong took a matchbox with him on his way
to the stars. Or did he grab one on that very same moon

that is hanging above our heads? Did moondust under
space shoes feel the same as your dirt yard did

under mine? Because I bet Armstrong, at the end of the day,
twirled a matchbox around in his fingers, feeling like

he brought a piece of home back home.

Carrie Fisher On: My Bad Days

 Girl, you need to wake up. The world may be against you,
but there is no reason for you to curl up and die. It hurts
to see you like this. Girl, get your ass out of bed because
you are sixteen and you can bounce back quicker now than
you ever will again. You had a good cry last night, and now
it’s time to be yourself again. I know you feel hollow, but Girl,
you are anything and everything but empty. You have seen
cancer, seen diseases i can’t even pronounce on your parents’
faces. You have known hunger, have known fear. Girl,
you have known tight-tight budgets and babysitting so
Mom won’t have to sweat the small stuff. I know that on
days like today you feel like you take up too much space. You
bundle up in these blankets like you’re a child again. I get it.
You feel like an empty huge thing that has no place; you are not.
Girl, taking up space has never been a bad thing. Get the fuck
out of bed because my bones are somewhere. Flowers are being
watered on top of my grave by the tears of Mark Hamill, and the
mourning silence of Harrison Ford. Princess Leia is rotting
somewhere, so go and get up, Girl, and do it for the both of us,
because I no longer can.


Let’s go to the river,
I’ll show you my dirty laundry.

I’ll pull out shitty ex-husbands
and bastard children,
early death and drug addictions.
I’ll show you sickness,
both those expected in bad habits
and those that came out of nowhere.

I’ll take that drug addiction
and beat the dust off it,
lay it in the water
and scrub it against the rocks,
my mother’s first husband clean.

I’ll take my dad’s stroke,
too recent in the past to collect any dust just yet,
and place it in the water.
We’ll watch as the stains disappear
the moment the grime touches the river.

And when everything’s clean–
be it days, weeks,
or years of scrubbing–
I’ll hand you one end
of some clothesline,
and we’ll string it between trees.

I’ll have acres of line;
if we must use every last inch, we will

And we will talk–
of August rain and rebirth–
and a few more weeks will go by,
lying on the river bed together,
and then carefully, we’ll start to pick at
clothespins folding each garment nicely.

What took miles of line
will fit perfectly in the single laundry
basket I brought with us all that time ago.

And we’ll go home to the pink house
and lay every once-dirty thing in the
drawers next to pleasant memories.

Cancer will lay next to picking flowers in the
yard, divorce next to Christmas morning,
and sweet kisses next to Uncle Marc’s headstone.
And maybe, possibly, some odd
cycle will end with us.


Sarah Lewis has been recognized for superior writing by the National Council of Teachers of English. She is a rising senior at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford, a lover of both poetry and prose, a Grand Champion of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Poetry Contest, and a recipient of seven Silver Key Scholastic Writing Award. Sarah is a student of classical voice, a theater kid, a ceramicist, a science fiend, and a person greatly indebted to her English teacher, Carol Blejwas, for her invaluable help.

I, the Observer

What is left when we are gone?
Our composite parts
the tang of iron
the jumbled carbon
the dash of salt
they are here,
but where are we?
Am I lost or am I left?
A law of equal exchange,
nothing created or destroyed,
is this its loophole?
The Final Experiment
lurking with watchful
eyes. It will wait longer still,
for I am not done looking,
I will observe the sun in its painful brightness,
and know that I am powered by it,
and know that the light
which catches on shimmering ponds
and glints on metal hubcaps
has imbued some little green plant
with the will to live and grow
and my artless consumption
of this poor middleman
has rendered this gift unto me.
I will marvel at the stars,
which prick the night sky
as if it were the reverse side
of a vast scrap of embroidery.
I will wonder at the light,
which was set in motion long before me,
whose star has ceased to burn,
this light that is not lost, or
for I am here to mark its passage,
to see the wave that is also a particle,
and greet it with the bundle of rods and cones within my eyes,
rejoicing as my clever brain tilts the world
so that up is above and down is below.
These things we do not name with magic.
They have laws.
They have rules.
But that does not make them ordinary,
that does not rescind their magic.
I can set fire to water with an ebullient alkali metal,
I can steal the heat from a room,
and use this filched energy to push apart
the amorous molecules of ammonium chloride,
as they cling to each other
in their solid ionic bonds.
Their sorrow at being parted
evident in the cooling of the test tube.
I can slow down the buzzing of water molecules
until they ache to crystalize,
but leave them bereft of a hand-hold,
demanding they solidify
only when I pour them.
I am made of the dust from stars
and rays of sunshine transposed
into bouncing lipids and jittering trios of phosphate,
sitting on a tiny rock suspended
in an ever expanding fabric
held together with only magic,
or gravity,
I suppose you could call it.
And my fancies grow childish in their whimsy,
this giddy joy in the wonder of things,
this knowledge that science does not render the world boring,
but understandable,
The Final Experiment shall wait,
with its daunting unanswered
hypothesis, for I am not done looking.

Bad Things

When we are young we learn the same story A simple tale,
A cautionary tale,
Bad things happen to bad girls.
Girls who drink and wear skirts shorter than their walk home
Girls who go out alone
Girls who don’t always want to come back alone
Simple enough.
Easy to understand.
Easy to internalize.

But, what is a “bad girl”?

You’ll know, trust me.

We grow older.
We learn that our bodies are distracting.
We learn of our duty to not be distracting.
The characters in the story seem more and more familiar,
more and more human.
We learn that to be like them is to be in danger.
We learn never to be like them.
But, if they failed in their duty, does that make them “bad?

No, but­—

The story changes:
Bad things happen to girls who make bad decisions.

Girls who make bad decisions

Girls who don’t cover up well enough

Girls who don’t bring enough friends to watch their back

Girls who forget to check their drinks

Girls who walk down dark streets

We compartmentalize them,
“the ones who did something wrong”,
that way they’re different from us,
that way it’s their fault,
that way nothing can happen to us,
because we’re not that type.
We’re good girls.
We’re smart girls.
We’re careful girls.
We won’t make their mistakes.
And still the story changes,
when you realize that you will get catcalled in a turtleneck or a tank top,
when you realize that you will be harassed at 12 and at 21,
when you realize that bad things don’t just happen on dark streets,
when you watch your friends cry in a dingy bathroom because something
               reminded them,
and you realize that it doesn’t matter how good or smart or careful you are,
then the story changes,
this complex narrative of shame and fault,
this idea that we are responsible for the actions of others,
this cautionary tale that if we do everything right nothing bad can touch us,
but it can,
and it does,
and the story changes once again:
Bad things happen to bad girls
Bad things happen to girls who make bad decisions
Bad things happen to girls.

Dreams of Words and Wakefulness

I dream in want of whimsy
In want of gall
In want of will
In the lack of lives not lackluster and in the presence of pain
I snatch a skein of dream as it trails behind the rushing pace of a hasty-
footed idea A dream of greatness, of boldness, of strength.
A dream to retreat into, to wear like a coat when winds howl with ferocity.
A dream to covet, to care for, to stitch the elbows of when, in its use, it begins to unravel.
A dream to aspire to, to hold carefully within and without, a dream to beget all other
dreams. I call forth my dream and cradle it in my mind’s eye
In the space that belongs to me alone
I dream it there and weave it further until it is bound up into the whole
of myself And wear my dream like silken armor,
to soothe and guard me.


Ellis McGinley is a sophomore at Arts at the Capitol Theater Magnet High School. They’ve been writing poetry since the sixth grade, with their passion sparked by their parents’ passion for the arts. Ellis is grateful for writing mentor and teacher, John Wetmore, and the suport of family and friends.

To the Tortoise

After Terry Pratchett

So you think the eagle screwed you over.

You, who has wobbled at one mile per eon through the currents of time,
allowed the world to flow past you like the waters of the river you squat by,
ogling without lunging for the minnows,
nibbling in passive rotations at grass  —
the only thing on earth that moves slower than you.

Your cousins in the Galapagos manage to be impressive in their wretchedness, but you —
you don’t bother with pride, or appearance, or legacy,
or the attempt to surpass decency that haunts most creatures.
Dawdling mediocrity is your nature, and it is the only one you have ever known.

You are incapable of crime even if you understood the concept.
There’s no space in your shell for thievery,
your beak too fragile for expressing brute force against anything but a cabbage patch,
claws, the only weapon you hatch equipped with,
better suited to soil than the flesh and bone of worthier creatures.

And yet, with all your features of innocence, your half-blind eyes,
your stub-tail, for decoration more than balance,
(even god couldn’t bear to make you useless and ugly)
the eagle chose you to execute.

And for just a moment of your hopelessly long life you got to fly.
You saw a world larger than you,
understood that an existence contains more than greens and eggs
and the tedium of faux immortality —
saw the rocky cliffs below, a mystery to a creature of mud and sand and not much else,
and before you could even discover the beauty of a question,
it dropped you.

And you smashed. Because even rocks are superior to tortoises,
and the brief, choked-down lunch of an eagle is more critical than your entire being.

The world happens between its belly and your back
and your neck doesn’t even move far enough for you to notice.


Consider Sumer.
The homeland of the blueprint of humanity—
cities home to an ancestor a few evolutionary steps behind,
a prototype set in motion on continents still sliding into place beneath their feet,
genius surpassing their creator.

They made legends out of puddles.
the first to discover pen and paper,
(better known as stick and slab)
to write, to catalog—
to carve legend into the memory of earth itself.

What kind of goddess could serve that kind of people?
What kind of deity would it take to capture them,
to catch their newfound ingenuity, spark the imagination
light a fire hot enough to raise temples
to etch a legacy into clay and brick
and forge it in the heat of a kiln.

They call her Inanna.
She is not their earth-mother,
not their sky-father;
didn’t bring them flame or show them brimstone.

She doesn’t flood their cities,
kiss plagues to their foreheads,
turn their lovers to salt, or their water to wine—
miracles like that, she finds, don’t make a monarch.

Genius has a mistress in contradiction.
She paints ladies and calls them sacred,
seduces heroes before the slaughter,
claims romance, scorns wives,
dons silk and breastplate,
depicts herself as lion,
and calls herself queen.


My family is haunted.
We brought a ghost upon ourselves,
a curse stashed in our nucleotides,
ravaging through our grey matter.
We pass it from generation to generation;
child to child,
cortex to cortex;
a wraith, existing only in our cerebrum.

We see it in my grandmother’s eyes;
watery blue, fading faster every evening,
blank stares instead of Christmas gifts,
names lost in the struggle, faces stolen
and memories hidden away
as the possession pillages her temporal lobe,
witching away her neurons as we watch,
hand her rosary beads,
their sixty years spent dragged between her fingers,
and her lips forget the prayers.

My mother loses our conversations.
Something unseen snatches her glasses,
leaves the oven on,
steals the stories off her sister’s lips—
the memory of her mother, and her mother,
the blue of her nurse’s cape,
the rhythmic click of a pair of knitting needles—
former vessels in turn forgotten,
spun thin as dust and cobweb.

There is no God here.
The Bible has no passage,
no exorcism can spare us—
not sage smoke, basil leaf,
iron charms tucked in pillowcases,
white candles at morning,
salt on the windowsill,
hydrangea on the doorframe.

It has no meaning to this kind of spirit—
the kind that hides inside us,
as we plead one after another
for forgiveness.


Youssef Mezrioui will be entering his senior year at Rockville High School. He has enjoyed writing from a young age; his poetry began in middle school. He would like to credit two teachers for helping him find his poetic voice Michael Savgnano and Victoria Norlund. As he grew as a writer, he began reading his poems to a larger audience. This helped him build his confidence. During his freshman year, Youssef performed his own song in front of his school. He is working on a poetry book and submitting to competitions. He is also working with locals to make music in the studio at his friend’s house. He hopes he can become a writer, perform his poetry and bridge out into entertainments. He is also interested in teaching.

The Predictable Ending

Acid carves a trail of memories dripping down my cheek.
I cry to the sad songs late at night and I can’t speak.
Can’t sleep. I knew infatuation ain’t sweet.
I know I should be happy for you and him but sad he ain’t me

but didn’t we have something special come to such sudden ends for?
seems like a just punishment for letting someone in
and lately I been rumbling and tumbling myself.<

Thankfully I regained my sound so I can sing along
to the sad song of you and me but I got to move on.
you with someone else now but you’re fake happy c’mon.
I guess we weren’t meant to be, never will be.

Here loving you dearly but not saying it yet
because I’m too young for love and ain’t tryna play you.
plus this stuff with us, it just ain’t ideally dearie
but maybe it never will be perfectly as I believe it should be
and romance is so complex it’s silly.

You go tell me there are plenty fish in the sea got me
salty that hurts me severely because you ain’t ordinary to me.
a tsunami stirs constantly deep beneath my skin.

I should be happy for you and him but I cannot pretend
to this paper; my truest friend) get it, cuz we’ll write to the end
Never mind that my patience is wearing paper thin.
if we ain’t in a relationship and you hate me then
I shouldn’t be taking your shit but I know you’re addicted so I forgive.

you’re saying we should just be friends but you act like were nothing,
not even friends! and haven’t been nothing but a good friend to you.
we had something special I won’t ever forget you–
and I kinda wish I never met you cuz,
I can’t regret you because you made me stronger than I was.

it’s been nothing less than lessons and I never wanted less you.

I know I can never judge you or understand you
because I ain’t been through what you been through
with the cards that this life handed you.
Yeah, you’re borderline personality signatures indelible on my crucifix.
my friends warned me girls said she didn’t deserve me.
but at least I taught her real love and can serve as an example of a good person.

But hey this ain’t the first break up and wont be the last
emotional roller coasters it’s a blast.
I’m over you, for my sake, you’re in the past.
Hey thanks for helping me understand who I am.
It was unexpected thanks for the lessons the friendship–
it was my first break up not the last … a quick note to reassure my insecure ass.
cliche as this trash poem sounds I had to get it off my chest
you blocked me but there’s something I forgot to tell you.

I loved you…

No Crossing Guard

The skies contain a Hiroshima glow nowadays.
black fog endlessly mucks up our moonless nights
but for now the heavens lean on the Earth.

Our synapses rewired numb.
The scars and streaks of orange pink break the blues of the shield
we call the sky,

The wind blows and trees creak and leaves rustle.
The birds fly down for December.
The old man ducks his shameful bald head in fear that they are airplanes. He remembers
Nevertheless, the young man buzzes around confused at news he hears
since history repeats getting worse each year.

Desensitized to pain, ignorant of our histories sympathies retreat.

Propagandas are spoken in a sickly nasal voice we have all heard it before
what more can I say?
Hopefully we will face it.

This world may not meet our expectations
with the way news is portrayed we could only speculate if.
there’s two sides to each story neither is painless
corny as it sounds and
when we learn to embrace each other we achieve amazing feats
and we will never be
old man

to afraid
to cross the street because

there’s no crossing guards when they trick you to think its a one-way street and you are a surrounded by sheep.


 Alien seedlings permeate by liquid, in cold moonlight.
The void of indifferent stars wasn’t as far off I believe.
Imagine the naked ape foraging, utilizing its tools.
Listen to the drip dat pattering of the rain rustling of dry leaves.

Ignore the whisper of the plants on grandfather’s plain.
Candy red apples sway beneath the tumultuous purple sky
Beneath the violent storms shake
The plants gossip What is its a lie?

It all was not made for you nor her nor me,
Maybe that’s the keystone of this story.
A naked ape doesn’t need jewelry for its glory
Its beauty is imperfect. Simpler than they word it.

A mean streak in its genes a clean slate was never the verdict
Along the way we forgot, and we buried instinct alive ashamed
Despite it all we survive the odds wishing to live like gods.
We forgot retaught at a standstill our hands on our chin.
What if we never live again? who says we are living to begin with?

Anxiety Exercise

My feet are on the floor. I’m
wearing a uniform shirt.
the shirt is soft, navy blue and cotton.
I inhale…

I sit alone on the backseat of a yellow bus.
In front of me is a graffitied tan leather.
It is Monday morning.

Slim colorful trees dimmed by a grey cielo,
an industrial vibration leaves my nerves unsettled.

A nice lady transports me to a temple of indoctrination.
If I don’t learn now it is damnation.
I pause a second for respiration.
My anxiety fuels my narration as inspiration
experiencing temporary liberation.
UNTIL I hit my realization:
I am just good at making pretty exaggerations on a piece of paper,
and I’ll never live off this “talent” I ain’t shit but a writer.


Alexander Norlund attends Glastonbury High School and Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. His poetry and prose have received recognition in the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards ad UConn’s Connecticut Student Writer Magazine. This year, he was selected to attend the New England Young Writers Conference at Breadloaf. Alex is a guitarist, singer and songwriter whose music has been featured on Radio 104.1. He credits his mom, Victoria Norlund, for his love of poetry and the arts.

Enough is Enough

 Despite everything, I think people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank

Today is the last show of nine.
I am Nazi #2 in the community theatre production
of The Diary of Anne Frank.
I am alone and confined to the corner of the dressing room
with a prop rifle heavy against my uniform.
I’m trying to take shelter in my headphones
Listening to Magical Mystery Tour,
checking my Snapchat news,
texting my girlfriend, and finishing up my PreCalc homework.

I read about Parkland on my Newsfeed now and how many teens have died–
and I think I am going to be sick.
The girl who plays Margot is glad they got the shooter.
Anne can’t believe he went to Subway and McDonald’s
after the massacre. The kid who plays Peter puts
on his foundation without a word and
Gabbi, the director, chirps that it’s going
to be a full house, likes my hair slicked back,
makes sure my arm band is on properly
so the audience can see my swastika.
She tells me to be more aggressive,
to push and shove and scream
at her Frank family.
The crowd will be crying for real again.

And I do not want to be here
in this costume tonight storming the Annex.

My mom tells me that I scared her–
She fought back tears as I looted the dressers,
broke picture frames and ripped papers.
Yesterday, the crowd booed me as I took my bow.

A half an hour before curtain,
Leonard sneezes into a rag in front of me.
Coughs up some phlegm.
He says he might have pneumonia.

He plays Mr. Dussel, the dentist.
He is a sixty-seven-year-old Vietnam Vet
who hates the end scene
because he doesn’t want to “hold hands with us faggots.”
Wants this country to be great again.
Doesn’t see it happening with “all these Goddamn snowflakes.”
“You are a quiet one, Alex.”
Tells me I’m sketchy.
Thinks I’m dangerous.

Then Mr. Dussel/Leonard asks me if I am doing any more productions.
I ignore him and listen to Nirvana on Spotify.
He answers for me though:

“You’re probably too busy writing death threats to do plays…
You look like a real shooter.”

I pretend to not hear him.
And then Mr. Dussel says he oughta “call Homeland Security.”
And he laughs at me.
And I say nothing.
And all the rest of the cast
lets this exchange go by
without protest.

Writing Poetry

You are that insect
that pays no attention to me–
that I push away with the end
of my pencil eraser.
You do not change your path.
You are a micro-knight on a quest for truth.
Even though your chitinous exoskeleton,
jointed legs,
and compound eyes
make it hard to accept you
as a hero on this page.

And I wish I didn’t fear you—
Creeping up my sleeve,
nibbling on my skin,
crawling into my ears,
feasting on my memories.

All I want to do is delete you.

But upon closer inspection,
some might just call parts of you beautiful:
Your antenna that earnestly probes the world.
The intricate patterns created to protect you from
your enemies,
to hide your vulnerability.
The circles and waves
printed on each segment
that remind me of the pads
of my fingertips.
You are capable of walking on water–
Of flying.


He is comfortable with
her tears.
Calmly notes
her head on her hands,
ripped jeans,
the carved-out seams of her seat,
the way her scratched skin bleeds.
The way the new prescription
just isn’t taking.
The way life just isn’t giving.
Im sorry
Thats all the time we have.

She hands him some money–
his medicine
A weak smile splits from his lips.
He turns away from her,
unable to meet her bloodshot eyes.
She is not working/He is just working.
This has stopped working.
See you in two
weeks. She hears him lock the door
as she helps herself
to a mint on her way out
of the empty office.


After Reading Of Mice and Men

You tried to find some reversal
But they gave you none.
And I know why you
didn’t shoot him.
Why you let them take ‘im.
Why you lay back on your
bunk and crossed your arms behind
your head and stared at the ceiling.

He was faithful.
He was by your side.
He was a good sheep dog.
And you didn’t mind the stink.
And you didn’t care he was fading fast.
You carried this burden.
And when that crash of the shot
rolled up and down the hills.
a sound that echoed itself,
and buried itself
deep within your skin,
you knew you shouldn’t of let
a stranger shoot your dog.

Both of your suns had set.
Both of you had no purpose.
Both of you were ain’t never goin’ find that place…
that little house with ten acres.
That place where you could live.
Both of you had sacrificed all you had amounted to
and you wasn’t looking
at that ancient night sky with him.
You buried your head.
You rolled over.
You faced that wall instead of lookin’ at the stars–
as the world went to black.