Riley Finwood

Church Camp

Little boyish princess, locked
up, little room, little me,
locked between the straight
lines of notebook pages
drawing worlds and worlds away,
fantasies, hundreds of leaflets

rolled into cigarillos,
smoked quietly in the dark,
so the youth pastor wouldn’t
sense the devilish sway
through the trees and strip
the bark for holy water for me.

and your little eyes like gems
in the creek, rippling under eyelids,
she didn’t even try, you said, cursing
your mother, sitting on the rocks,
rocks in your hand, twisting sad
into desperate wet locks.

the candles lit on the bank made
you glow in martyred yellow light, no hero
in deed, and me, to see your streaming
face, cheek to cheek, untouchable
eyelashes like little dragon wings,
too much too far away.

because your mother died last week.
cancer. breast cancer.
and I couldn’t fold my hands
to your Waterloo cheek, no prayer.
outrageous it seemed, but I couldn’t.
not even for the sake of forsaking grief.

because my gayness,
supposedly contagious,
couldn’t have eased your rage,
so ancient of ages, little pebbles
worn and skipped across the surface
only to sink to the bottom.

so I figured I would be a tower,
far off and steady, the devil’s name
carved into the trees surrounding,
because I was sure that
you couldn’t have handled
another disease.

so I held my hands to me.

In May of 2015, Riley Finwood graduated magna cum laude from Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s in creative writing and an associate’s in literature. She was a finalist for the Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing in 2014 with the poem, “What I Learned in Ireland, I Think.” Currently, she is a songwriter and drummer in the rising band, Heron and Crane in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Listen to and download their music here.