2022 OPEN Finalists: Part 3 of 3

Thank you for joining us on the journey through the OPEN winners! You can find Yi Wei’s winning poem here, Part 1 of the finalists here, and Part 2 here. For Part 3, we’re sharing work by Adedayo Agarau, Amy Wang, and Georgio Russell.


Lilac by Adedayo Agarau

the upturned field of green listens

& the slant hibiscus swells with silence—a song stings backward


your grandfather blows dust off his own bones

alive, the bones ache—his eyes’ sockets wilt the leaves & the eyeballs push out


the sky, swirling blue winds, dunes clouds eastward

in the distance, you see yourself walking towards the upturned field of green


listening as the slant hibiscus swells with silence

your grandfather unmakes the words, unwrites the lyrics & the debris of memory


becomes the fog before you, a ship pulverizing in the wind;

from the lavender farm, the bones are shaking & forming

—a mother is calling with echoes in her throat



you squint into the fog, hearing the rancourous talking drum

saying a proverb in reverse—a door is waiting with a church of boys



on the lavender farm where you are also tilling the soil

someone is unmaking love with you, taking their kiss from your mouth, unsticking


their tongue from your tongue, planting the lilac elsewhere

their feet removing its print from the door & the language of loss


in the horrendous wind finds the farm

finds the mother with a baby strapped to her back & fills her echoes with echoes


sweeps clean everything you see in the distance;



—birds on the twigs of dry trees

—the talking drum’s reversed proverbs



now, before you, a blue glass glows

with the spider’s web in the sky & with promises

that were once dreams that were once a deed

that was once a prayer



in the blue glass, the sun spits out a child

across the solemn face of the child, something, still like a lake


in the lake, your grandfather is drowning

the bubble in your throat an empty street in winter


the lilac is without flowers—the flowers are without scent—

a thread of rain trickles from sky dunning clouds eastward


onto the field where you are standing

where the bones have undone the dead & the coffin has forgiven itself


the songs have stopped—the drum a swelling foot bathed in salt

—what will you do with the vacancy of your faith?



Adedayo is the 2022 Robert Hayden Scholarship fellow of Stockton University and the recipient of the 2022 Stanley Awards for International Research at the University of Iowa. He is studying for MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop ’23. Adedayo is the Editor-in-Chief at Agbowo Magazine.


autumn homecomings by Amy Wang

After the door closes, everything goes soft and dull.
The bloody shudder of sound loses its only

weight—we imagine this town softening
as it sifts through our fingers, red husk as a

lisping memory of Ohio. As if we could close
our eyes and return to that summer—

where behind the veil of night, the trees were mined
of color. Where every minute was another bird

-call, and we crept through the yellow grass
like barren things, our hands full of ticking,

angry and slow. Over the gulches, we watched
the bones of the town, sketched out in

white against the crumbling hills, knowing our fate
could only ever be to follow the herons in the

autumn. Below us, the valleys thinned themselves
of pines and fir and open-eyed birch trees,

rendered into the open-mouths of farmland. Green
and blue and blossoming red. The fields

so golden we could hardly bear to see them
fall to harvest, to return again to see them shorn.



Amy Wang is a writer from California. She is a 2020 prose alumnus of The Adroit Journal‘s summer mentorship under Andrew Gretes. When not crying over fanfiction, you can find her translating Chinese literature, coding, and taking long walks.


Portrait of My Arrival as Grief by Georgio Russell

The jet I am in is wreathing an island.

I peer out of the window to watch
my past home pulse away despite

the rows of headstones.
Every time we turn, I name the vein

of a known street, cars like maggots
moving between the roofs.

A few cruises nurse in a western
harbour, near the funeral road,

where, on Sundays, the brass band
will march a casket amid its mourner music.

In my old schoolyard, starred with aloe,
the next alumni walk along

the outdoor corridor, and down south,
sunshine allows life in Lucaya’s

straw market, fills the pineyards
that come close to a moment’s silence,

if not for the last nuthatch
who bellies her lyric from a branch.

The buzzard I sit inside is circling,
searching the ground for an elegy

to feed itself. But from this sky
of mine, where all

the people seem the size of cells,
my island’s face is ageless,

a safe enough distance from dust
to deem undying, like your face

before that famine, before the terrain
of your body rotted in the reach

of church hymns, and you were deaf
to prayer and the pre-dawn bawling

of our mother.
Really, brother, I wanted to return,

to find the flesh of home
yielding, like you, to the ashen

ambitions of bone, to learn that your death
bloomed a weird weed, a loss so strong

it sapped all colour from paradise,
made the place a wasteland.

But our reefs still filter
the dim Atlantic, and even now

the clearest sea surrounds
all I have surrendered to memory.

Oh, my blood, forgive
that I have dawdled on this visit, delayed

the gravesite trip to you,
whose name I’ve said so little

my voice became avoidance.
The plane laps and elapses.

I circle seemingly forever up here,
in this holding pattern, dizzied by

the day’s blue disc,
winding and rewinding in silver clouds;

until the runway, heavy with returns,
clears and I can descend

after so long repeating the whirl.



Georgio Russell is a Bahamian writer and an alumnus of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. He is a past winner of the Ian Randle Publisher’s prize, the Peepal Tree Press Prize, and the Mervyn Morris Prize for poetry. Russell was also a featured poet for the British Council’s project, “Unwritten Poems: Exploring Caribbean Engagement in WW1.” His work has been published in Yolk Literary Magazine and PREE magazine, and he has poems forthcoming in The London Magazine. He currently lives in Brampton, Ontario, where he teaches English for Educate Academy. Some of his favorite poets include Derek Walcott, Lorna Goodison, Ocean Vuong, Jane Hirshfield, and Yusef Komunyakaa.
Close Menu