Prompts and New Voices
n the autumn semester of 2018, in my creative writing course at SUNY Oneonta, my students endeavored to write “thematically linked” poems. We read Adele Kenny’s “A Lightness, A Thirst, or Nothing at All,” my book, “Dante’s Unintended Flight,” Patricia Smith’s “Blood Dazzler,” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” We also read Ginsberg’s “Howl,” in order to introduce the “lengthy” poem. One part of the 12 poems the students were assigned to write was three “dream narratives.” They were meant to write the dream as it happened with accuracy. This enabled a lot of surrealist poetry. Most of these students were new to poetry, so I was surprised at some of the students’ natural talent. The students featured in this issue are “Dee” Spadoni, Julie Morrelli, Josiah Nelson, Angelina Beltrani and Isabel Wilkes. I hope you appreciate their work.
— Emily Vogel
Vogel teaches at the State University of New York, Oneonta
- The strum of a guitar, each longitudinal wave passes and love, hate, and hurt are linked and connected to this unconnected sound. Every strum is unique and full of life, and every strum is an unoriginal repeat of a past wave, dull and meaningless. I open my lips. I open my eyes. I stare into your soul and there is no link.
- Glisten, eight black eyes full of desire. Each millisecond passes and that anticipation of ripping the canvas of colors in half, limb by limb, continues to grow. Bat your wings, you have metamorphosed into your coffin. Your colors will be stripped like Joseph’s jacket, and justice will be a joke of the past.
- Static. Static. The crackling of pixelated flames and frames burns my eyes and ear drums with each frequency. Static. Static. Sex. Silicone. Death. Pain. Anger. Anything that can encourage a click, anything that can be commodified for green paper. Static. It’s all fucking Static. I’m drowning in a sea of static.
- Commodify my middle finger. Mold together plastic or polyester for paper, preach from a pulpit for private jets. Religion, love, war, technology, it’s all fair game. You’re dead or raped children were only an interesting story for a few weeks and we have moved on, sorry.
- Graveyard shift, caffeine patches and the death of aspirations. I don’t have to live in the sun. Robotic routine, repeated motions, and that same droning small talk in overwhelming daily doses. Discomfort, distaste, discontentment but too preoccupied to change an occupation. I am not me. I am a box in the conveyor belt, I am the shovel that belongs to the gravedigger.
- A neon glow hums, moths, gnats, flies, and me. We hover over misguided light, elegantly designed to replicate my soul’s longing. We’re drawn to your light, all while the glow of the moon is covered in clouds of crystal camouflage. Flicks and taps against a flickering cell screen, I only see what you make me want to see.
- Life is just a field of Sundew clothed in Friday night party clothes. They lie in wait for the floating of delicate wings, prepared to seduce them with their sensual sugary coating of saliva and the swaying of hips in the breeze. Sundew whispers promises of light, hoping to catch the longing of a passerby when the sun feels unobtainable. I have let you suck me up, saturate me, digest me, and set me aside to evaporate.
- All it takes is a single disconnect, the setting aside of habitual meaningless pleasure. Light Bulbs don’t need to be smashed, fields don’t need to be plowed to save a soul. I just have to step off of this wheelchair and walk towards the sun again.
About the poet:
Josiah Nelson is a senior at SUNY Oneonta studying music. He has an associate degree in Liberal Arts from SUNY Broome which has provided him with a wide spectrum of thoughts and ideas in all areas of study. As a local singer -songwriter, he plans to continue writing poetry after graduation.
Never forget how incredibly serendipitous you are
That out of chaos,
out of hundreds and thousands of collisions of starlight,
emerged into existence, new and bright and beautiful.
Yet, now here you are
Plucked carefully from the heavens
Like a peach at its prime, plucked from the tree
Fearfully and wonderfully made
breathing softly, ear turned to lay against my heartbeat.
A lighthouse on the shore coaxing you back down to the earth.
I know this may not seem like home yet. That the air is cold, and the people colder still. The sky does not glitter with gold, and grey skies will threaten to choke out your light.
You will shine brighter for a time, a capacity left over from days of hop-scotch atop the clouds.
You will never forget, yet instead lock this away over the years.
Key stuffed into your back pocket.
A bird caged away.
You will forget that she sits there.
Wings folded uncomfortably against her body, tirelessly singing a ballad of her sorrows, of a time when she danced in between beams of brilliant luminescence.
I will teach you how to set her free.
You will teach her how to dance again.
I will make sure you know that
are the answer to the question that sits like a splinter under the nail of human existence
“What if there’s more?”
A split second of airtime, then gravity takes hold.
Here lies Julie, face down in the street, not dead yet, just wiped out head over feet.
Max barks and wags his tail as I untangle his leash from around my ankles. Blood waterfalls out of my knees pooling into my otherwise pristine white running shoes.
Good for nothing
COMPLETE PIECE OF SHHHH-
Shhhhouting now in the middle of the road, manic mortified under the maple trees, as if my neighbors haven’t witnessed enough of my crude attempts at running with my dog. I can almost see them standing at their front windowsills, newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, surveying the block for anything of substance to dish during the next PTA meeting.
As I peel myself off the pavement, I make direct eye contact with Mike, a friendly old man I’ve lived across the street with since pigtails were in fashion and it was socially acceptable to have a matching backpack and lunch box.
Who has seen me jogging before.
Hand frozen, gripped around the gardening hose watering the flowers out front, because this summer has been an awfully brutal one hasn’t it? Face contorted in disgust at the exposed flesh of my knees, he makes a painful attempt at a smile and raises one hand as if to say
“Hey, just saw you completely eat it and I would help, but if Kim sees that the petunias are drooping, I’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight”
I smile, raise my hand back and start to limp away as if to say
“Don’t worry old man,
just keep watering your damn flowers”.
raisins of wrath.
The concert is okay I guess.
I don’t really recognize any of the music, but I seem to be having a good time.
That is until Chad
or whichever typical frat-looking guy
grabs me by the arm
My stomach does somersaults. I realize I am here alone and no one will bat an eye if he tries to pull me out of the crowd. I pull away, but he pulls harder. This tug of war goes on for so long that I miss one of the band’s best songs, the crowd goes wild. My fist makes full contact with his face and I don’t even feel that bad.
My body was never his playground to begin with.
He retreats into the mass of people behind me,
the edges around my vision become blurry and
I’m in Hannaford.
I’m in Hannaford in the shampoo aisle.
I’m in Hannaford in the shampoo aisle and I’m avoiding my mother.
I’m in Hannaford in the shampoo aisle and
my vision blurs again;
I am in my friend Rachel’s green Kia soul. The scent of new car smell lingers in the air. There is a familiar plastic grocery bag on my lap. The plastic crinkles as I open it. It is empty except for a package of raisin bread. I open it up and give both me and Rach a slice. As I take a bite, I suddenly remember how much I hate raisin bread.
About the poet:
Juliana Morrelli is from Ronkonkoma, N.Y. She is studying Biomedical Science at SUNY Oneonta.
Anxiety; A Dream
I’m in my living room,
My mom’s speaking gibberish
As my brother just nods in agreement.
An odd sense of panic comes over me,
looking around curiously, the house is not my own.
I see him in the hallway,
Dressed in all white,
He has a knife in his hand and he’s running to us.
I try to move,
I can hear screaming behind me,
I’m not sure if my family is alive or dead.
Now I’m in a classroom,
My tenth grade English teacher comes in,
She tells us to take out the homework,
And I cry because I don’t have it done.
We only go to Astoria for funerals
It was a cold morning in October
I remember listening to Pink Floyd as we drove up to Astoria.
As each exit passed, I grew more anxious
You really were gone.
The sickness had stolen your memory,
You forgot your friends,
It was a cold night in October
I remember sitting in silence as we left Astoria.
I wondered if you were cold too,
all those 6 feet underground.
I played with the hem of my black dress,
Almost as black as the long road ahead of us.
“Heaven took back another angel,”
My mom had said.
But when God takes so many people from you at once,
You wonder if it’s really God,
Or something else.
Domenica Spadoni is a Secondary Education major with a concentration in English. She’s had a passion for writing since her childhood and has a strong love for poetry. She wants to be an English teacher but aspires to have her other works published in the future.
He would say to me
Once the air was cooling off, and shade of the blue in the abnormally clear sky began to fade
To a darker, calmer, better blue
Still sitting at the dinner table
I would watch my dad as he cleaned the kitchen,
Sitting with my head buried in my knees.
He had a thing for cleaning the kitchen.
Glasses clinking and constant cabinet slamming.
As soon as I could see my reflection on the table top
I knew it would be time to go.
Hopping into the silver jeep, I was quiet
Giving off an impression I wasn’t pleased
Yet truthfully, I was more content than ever,
Being granted a reminder that I was loved.
Soaring over the boats on the bridge
Subconsciously making the music louder
As if something had to do with the words of the song speaking directly at me
Like no other time, as we trekked the ocean parkway
Running each of my fingers in straight lines on each side of me,
The nerves in my body vanished.
Looking up to see a sky enrapturing an array of oranges, and yellow.
My favorite being in time, a sky painted with melancholy blues and susceptible purples.
I Close Your Eyes
Window shades drawn
And darkness welcomed into the simplicity of routine
I close your eyes
I close my eyes with you
Brushing the hair dangling from your forehead over your gentle, worried eyes
I will remind you
That by morning
You will feel the warmth of the glowing October sun through the small window
Fractured by glistening, silver drapes
About the poet:
Isabel Wilkes‘ interest in writing and music is heavily influenced by her father’s playing of guitar, and by her own guitar teacher. She has performed original songs at public events, and made many friends in doing so. Isabel finds writing relieves stress, and that poetry, specifically, helps her in writing original songs. And, she says, writing poetry is something she can do, no matter how much time has gone by.
Because They Said I Should Go
This was the first and last time I wasn’t the early one
Why would I be when I don’t feel like you or you or you
But at least I don’t look like a cupcake, I guess
A towering Italian family piles out of their tiny Italian car
And then he’s dancing in a limo or she’s dancing on him in a limo
No, that’s later
I wish my head was shiny and popping
But coca cola cans are snapping
The driver is our simulated dad
The wrinkled and twisted faced
Women in white are our mothers
A1 sauce can ruin a meal
And seventeen does not a dancing queen make
Everyone is shouting “Panda!” at the DJ
In boredom or spite, she says “Who wants to kiss me?”
Believe it or not midtown Manhattan has heavy eyes on weeknights
So quiet, you realize I can sing and so can it, you to sleep
Times Square tastes like pennies, as tacky as casinos
The jeweled girl feels the turn in the road
And knows we are home
And not where we need to be
No one ever needs to be in Jersey
They say nothing good happens after midnight
But not the way you think
Be quiet, be quiet as you sneak to the kitchen
The driver or the women in white may hear
Or maybe God, wasn’t that the point?
Cherry Chapstick kisses and one shot of whiskey
I figure it’s safe to sleep when the sun comes up
But they had other plans
But so did everyone else
The sun’s been missing for days
I checked again this morning but nothing
The Alfred Hitchcock Psycho music is blaring in my chest
Invisible hands are clutched on my throat
My feet haven’t even reached the bedroom floor
Everything is quiet
My pants are dirty and there are holes in my tights
Miss a bus and stand 45 minutes in snowy single digit temperatures
And you’ll know the Scottish were thinking torture with the kilt
She’s trying to talk, and I’m not sure I remember how
So, I’ll just stare out the window and go to the future I don’t believe in
Or to all the things I’ll never have the heart to do
I’ll let her sleep until we make it to the stop
Or when the bus breaks down before the bridge
The day drags on like a priest at a podium
Volleyball left red marks on my arms
The effect wears off after six hours, said so on the friendship bottle
Train traffic in tunnels, no service, and subway doors look cozy
They don’t know or they don’t care; doesn’t matter – the deadline is tomorrow
Lay me to rest finally
Music in my chest, hands on my throat, and the suspension in my stomach
At least there’s quiet
It’s 5 o clock and I missed the sun, if it ever showed
I’ll check again tomorrow
Angelina Beltrani is copy editor of The State Times, her college newspaper, where her work has been published. She is also a DJ and the Training Director of her campus radio station, WONY 90.9. She has been on the Dean’s list since Fall 2016, and made the Provost List in Spring 2018. She is pursuing a career in publishing, and is taking a Professional Writing minor.