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Song of a Broken Soul

By Joseph Leo Hickey III

1st Place, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2023


As I sing

with my one last breath,

I cry out for life.

In a world where we look for meaning,

we find unwelcoming hands,

but hands I always loved.

I have always loved the way hands hold,

the way hands reach out toward the sky,

and the shadows of hands across a broken city.

The shadows of my hands,

stretch out across the world,

never meeting another.

I have lived for so long

and labored so hard

to try to understand

what life is like.

So broken into many pieces,

strewn across the pages of your book,

which you will never read again,

but tells the secrets of your soul.

The crowds moving forever through the city,

passing by

while I stand here,

my song unheard,

my life ignored and thrown away,

so that in drowning no one can hear me,

in suffocating and no one can see me.

Take my one last breath

and elevate it somewhere above the clouds

where it can live on forever

in its own place

and its own time.


All I desire

is the freedom that you have,

the life underneath the sun,

the joy in the middle of the rain.

The void of shadows

that follow us now and forever.


Every note I hear

fills my lungs

and leaves when I speak

temptation to become more than who we are

and to live forever.

Nothing will stop my voice from flooding

the avenues of a broken world.


Each season that passed for me

changed and grew colder,

a generous song in my soul,

unraveling it over and over again,

singing with deep sighing labored breaths.

The razor of your lonely heart,

thinking for yourself in a world

that would only lock its doors to you.

If you can feel me, hold me closer.

If you hear the wind calling your name,

the lament of every single forgotten star

is found in these same winds

where we lay down here on earth,

growing up and breathing,

but my breath always labored,

so mournfully do we breathe out forever.


Dreaming of the future, enslaved to the present moment,

where we can no longer move,

suffocating under the yoke of others.


Our own free hand was never able to be lifted in the night.

I hold the candle high that lights up

the world,

but their eyes are not conditioned to see light, lives not conditioned

to feel anything but

a long and comfortable life away from

pain.

Very few run toward this pain.

You hear my voice now and forever

in these songs.

I want to visit other cities where

we together can be united

and holy and cognizant of the obvious truth in our worlds.

The joy as we gallivanted throughout the city,

I hold the candle.

I will be your new light

in a world where so few can stand,

where my very existence is a political issue

and I cannot stand my own ground for much longer.

I imbibe the lullaby of the passing time.


If only you could hear my breath,

in the world where the stars are so far,

like my dreams, untouchable,

but still, we reach our hands out all the same.

The oceans of my inability to stand,

inability to write pressed down face first into the ground,

by those with violent hearts.

My life is broken and my mind roaring

across the pages of books I never finished.

The perfection of falling in love with books,

with words of those who lived long ago still speak to me.

I hold the candle high.

In the infancy of my life I will always die,

forced out, before I can get up to breathe.


All I need now and forever is the ability to sing

the last song of the last of us.

Breaths so painful,

we can no longer lift our voices in song.

If you can hear my momentous voice,

dream with me on the floor of these oceans,

collide with me like the colors mixing into something new.

You may forget about me, but I will never forget I met you,

never forget the simple joyful breath of being alive,

the life I never had.

The ones who never spoke to me,

the closed doors to every part of my soul,

the daydreaming never ends,

the life in the world forever changed by

the thunderous roar of those outside

our halls, tearing down our barricades

and calling for our deaths.


Artist Statement:

The theme of this work is to humanize the experiences of all those who are unseen or unheard, and that just because you cannot see someone or hear their voice is no excuse for cruelty. The character who is the speaker of the poem, who bears the poetic name “Don’t Cry Girl,” is (and this next part is a massive spoiler in the larger work) an abortion victim who lives the life she never had the opportunity to live, due to the magic of a time-traveling former priest known as Father Time.

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