Maybe I don’t give the lad enough credit. My burdens
are his, until they aren’t, and after all, who am I
to tether him to these pastures? Maybe I should get
one more pint, maybe I should call him, ask him
to come pick me up. We can grab a six pack
and bond a little, down in the woolshed, away
from the old lady. I’ve seen the way he handles
that clutch. The boy is as eager as he is young.
Restless like a spooked horse, dumb like the fence posts
that line these paper roads When he was a child,
he would stand alone in the frost paddocks
and stare into the sun until his eyes bled pink. He refused
to blink, while he memorized the constellations. He told me
that one day he would ride amongst them. I slapped
the back of his head, handed him a shovel and told him
to get back to work. Have I been fair to him? Yes.
Harsh? Who’s to say? Isn’t a boy just a man waiting
for his time to shine and how can anyone ignite
without conquering a surrounding dullness and what
brings you down here so late on a Friday
anyway, officer? Has something happened?
Jordan Hamel is an Aotearoa New Zealand writer and performer. He is currently at the University of Michigan on a Fulbright Scholarship. His debut poetry collection Everyone is Everyone Except You, was published in New Zealand by Dead Bird Books in 2022 and will be published by Broken Sleep in the UK in 2024. He is also the co-editor of No Other Place to Stand, an anthology of NZ and Pacific climate change poetry from Auckland University Press (2022). He is the winner of the 2023 Sonora Review Poetry Competition, judged by Maggie Smith and the 2023 New Writers UK Poetry Prize. He was the runner-up in the 2023 American Literary Review Poetry Contest. Recent work can be found or is forthcoming in POETRY, Adroit, Sonora Review, American Literary Review, New Delta Review and Gulf Coast. (Photo credit: Ebony Lamb)