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PAIGE BLAIR

Paige Blair, a sophomore at Cazenovia High School, was named winner of the 2023-24 Subnivean New Writers’ Award competition and the Syracuse Young Playwrights Festival contest. She writes most of her poems in her phone’s Notes app during passing periods.


—turn phone to portrait mode to view properly



I DON'T GO TO CHURCH ANYMORE

God is: 

good. 

Holding hands around the table 

asking, asking, asking— 

we always want something from Him.

Say grace, sister 

I did it the best. 


God is: 

dead. 

Can He be, 

if He never existed at all? 

Just a thought, 

a hope 

a dream— 

a delusion 

of idiots who can’t accept that the world is cruel. 


God is: 

wrathful. 

You don’t belong. 

You’re a sin. 

You’re going to Hell. 

I never understood the term

God-fearing Christian. 

Isn’t He supposed to love us? 

Aren’t we 

His children? 

At what point 

does love 

fester into resentment? 

At what point 

does God turn his back on us? 

Are we 

like any other children, 

desperately seeking positive attention

from a father who couldn’t care less?

From a Father who regrets creating us? 


God is: 

forgiving. 

Hate the sin, 

love the sinner. 

They still love me. 

Do I want them to? 

I pray the Lord shows her the right path.

Why is this one wrong? 

He doesn’t hate me. I am just a 

wayward child, and one day 

I’ll come back to Him.

I’ll see that He was right all along. 

Fathers always are. 

Aren’t they? 


God is: 

accepting. 

He doesn’t care who I am. 

He doesn’t care who I love. 

Brown Jesus kisses Judas. 

Their love was there, 

no matter how it ended. 

The Holy Ghost lives in them 

for they are not a sin. 

Love is holy, no matter what form it takes. 


God is: 

everywhere. 

She is in the cereal I eat every morning. 

I never break from routine. 

They are in the way I look at myself in the mirror. 

I’m not always happy with reflection, but I’m learning.

Xe laughs and smiles with me as I find my people, 

the community that I can always count on. 

He doesn’t care if I believe in Him. 

He will always believe in me.



TODAY WE LEARNED ABOUT THE SPEED OF LIGHT


The sun could go out right now, 

and we wouldn’t know for eight and a half minutes.

The stars could go supernova 

and we might not realize for years. 


The worst thing in the world happened to you, 

and I only learned about it last week. 

The sun is ninety million miles away 

and it can get to you faster than I can. 


You used to live a few feet from me, 

and now I would have to travel hours to touch you.

A text message could reach you at the speed of light 

and I can’t get myself to send one. 


You were always more like the sun, 

while I was something like a comet. 

You were white light, every color combined 

while I was just an event horizon. 


You know what? 

I’m sick of science metaphors. 


I miss you,

but don’t want to talk to you. 

I love you, 

but I’m okay. 


Is that wrong? 


You’re not the sun to me. 

Not anymore.



I'M NOT SURE I KNOW HOW TO LOVE


my best friend says love is everywhere—it’s kisses on foreheads and hugs from behind, body doubling on busy days. my boyfriend tells me he loves me on his way out the door—i smile and wave him off. i can’t say it back. why can’t i say it back? my sister is always mad at me—i never answer her messages. she says talking to me is like talking to a situationship, always left on read.


hanahaki is one of my favorite tropes—is that what i think of love? is it a beautiful, delicate thing—that will choke you if you let yourself give in to it? i imagine myself with rose petals on my tongue, scrabbling at the feet of the boy i love. who put me there—him or me? even as i lay there suffocating, i can’t say it. i can’t tell him. what if i’m wrong? what if i don’t? 


don’t love me. i won’t answer your messages. i’ll avoid you in the halls. i’ll hate when you’re with me, hate when you’re not. i’ll be distant, and i won’t care enough, and i’ll hide it so, so well. you’ll think that i’m perfect. i’m not. i swear, i’m not. 


please. don’t love me. 


i don’t deserve it.



A CYNIC'S GUIDE TO SEEING THE WORLD


Go to your library. 

Pull out an atlas. 

Flip through it. 

Stop. 


Where did you land? 

Imagine how much better life would be there.

You would be happier, if you were somewhere else. 

Right? 


Keep flipping. 

Find the place you’ve always wanted to go. 

Wonder if you’ll be alive long enough to get there. 


Close the book. 

Put it back. 


You’re never making it out, anyway.


THIS IS WHY I DON'T BELIEVE YOU WHEN YOU SAY YOU LOVE ME


Because my best friend stayed with her rapist 

for months after he did it. 

She blocked it out. 

He loved her. 


Because in murder cases, the first suspect is always the boyfriend.

They call them “crimes of passion.” 

I don’t want to give you a motive. 


Because I’ve learned how to be quiet, 

how to be polite. 

I don’t want to provoke anyone. 

Who knows what they’ll do to me? 


Because my mother tells me to be careful as I walk out the door.

She asks if I’ll be alone, if I’ll have something to defend myself with. 

Would she ask the same of her son? 


Because the women in my family seek out angry men, 

or maybe we’re the ones who are sought. 

I’m not sure, but I don’t know if I can break the cycle. 


Because one in three girls my age are raped.

More than half, by someone they trust. 

Less than 20% report it. 

I don’t want to be another statistic. 


Because I’m young, and scared, and tired.

And I’m living in a world where I

can’t.



OCTOBER, SOUTHWEST MISSOURI


baggy ripped jeans and 

your dad’s college sweatshirt 

running through the churchyard

in dirty, cold bare feet 

you used to love it here. 

now it just feels like 

nostalgia, 

a soft sadness that tells you 

you’ve grown past that joy. 


you left your fishnets 

and your black clothes at home. you put on frilly shirts 

and respectable flats 

but— 

you still can’t seem to blend in. 

can they tell? 

can they tell? 

that you’re not one of them anymore? 


were you ever? 


when your great-grandmother died,

you played for hours in the churchyard

after the funeral. 

with your cousins, 

and your second cousins, 

and your third cousins twice-removed.

you haven’t seen most of them since then. 


it’s only ever tragedy 

that brings you together.

 

your sister says that this place is home. 

that it always has been. 

it always will be. 

she wants to come back. 

she will, one day. 

you don’t know 

if you’ve ever known home, really. 


is home 

a too-warm house 

bedroom-turned office-turned bedroom

that you’re kicked out of 

when the kids come?


is home 

a too-cold house 

rotating living room 

trying not to get attached 

because tomorrow you may be gone again? 


maybe 

you’ll find home someday 

but you know it’s not 

in october, 

in southwest missouri.






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