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.