2020 Winner

The Hotel California

after Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist

Years have loosened the

threads woven beneath

my forehead and cheeks.

 

Yet the tang of iron and zinc

Still linger on the roof of my mouth

Like regret begging to be put to paper,

 

My sick mind thought lead

Would bring me rest but

Lead carried me to where I can never dream

 

So, I drink the ghost of you

Like scorching spirits

Conjuring small infernos in the back of my throat.

 

You can’t enjoy a buzz up here,

So I don’t understand

Why we all drink like fish.

 

Just the other day —

 

A lady in all white said

When my mother found me,

She held me for eighty-three minutes straight.

 

Eighty-three minutes,

She said,

I bled in my mother’s arms

 

Only then did she let those men carry me away.

 

So every night, for eighty-three minutes straight,

I pluck for her blood harmonies,

Until my fingers paint the strings crimson.

 

To drown out her cries,

To drown out her screams,

Though I know my hollowed melodies never reach her ears —

 

I miss the smell of my mother.

 

Because heaven smells like cheap wine

And chlorine swimming pools.

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Samuel Mitchell

Sidwell Friends School

Grade: 12

Hometown:

Bethesda, MD

Birthplace:

Washington, DC

Favorite Author or Book:

William Faulkner

Dream for the Future:

A more empathic world

Inspirational Figure:

My older brother, Ben