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,
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
but their eyes are not conditioned to see light, lives not conditioned
to feel anything but
a long and comfortable life away from
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.
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.