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Poem of the week: Hansel in College by Tyler Mills

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Weaving a different work by Gwendolyn Brooks into her own, Mills makes their parallel stories sing together

Hansel in College

I did not believe in a “we”:
only you, smoking in the street, hardly real.
I put that thought in your mind, you said, the cool
brown of your eyes too round. We
were two stone lions, one with a closed mouth. You left
your apartment open. One wrinkled shirt on a hanger. School
locked you out again. We locked you out. We
thought we saw you in my old car. It was up to me to lurk
outside & count your lead of five white stones. Too late.
Besides that time you scissored my dolls, we
did not fight. I’d follow you to the park. One strike
& you’re out. Once you punched me straight
in the mouth. But I hit you first. Sunday is the person we
don’t wake for anymore, but I heard you sing
for her in church: a heartbeat early, you said, Joy. Sin
does not belong here, a word we
rip out like hair from the drain, a thin
rope of water splashing through it. We stole gin
from our father. We sat on the floor. We
explained the faces in the window, the jazz
hitting the door. I blamed you all June
that the voices spoke to you. I did not believe we
could see the same trees: yours filled with pigeons that die
in sleep, in a tingle in the ear. In a word like soon.

Related: Poem of the week: Origin of the Mimeo by Siobhán Campbell

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