Selections from Honors Theses in Poetry
a story by Rebecca Rothfeld ’14
a story by Rebecca Rothfeld ’14
from the English Honor’s Thesis, Clockwork, by Mary Rockwell ’11
As soon as Spring gave in, the air conditioning
was busted. So we rolled down the windows
of my ‘85 Mercedes—blew steam instead.
In Burlington summer launches without proof,
given the loss of watches, the freedom of a route
that leads straight out of town, directions
scrawled on a paper napkin on my lap.
Why plan anything when given such a nice list
of what to expect, how to expect where to go.
When your purpose is to be purposeless
you can expect Monday to be as free as Sunday,
certainly can expect moments to be as free
as soft‐serve ice cream, bought from the convenience
store for nothing but the price of my own name,
which the owner already knows by heart.
Everyone always seems to know things
I do not tell them, but surely gossip is not gossip
if it’s true: people only talk about what they want
to believe about the people who always leave.
My heart turns over those days too many times,
plays them like board games against my logical mind,
pays too much mind to another time, the past—
the type of light touch that lingers in a rush.
Nothing ever does stay long enough.
We never wanted to feel young then,
never think we are that young now.
Catching slimy snails in red plastic pails,
my brothers and sisters and I spent summers
on the far edge of Kennebunk beach.
We searched beneath the smooth underbellies
of salty rocks, scoured the shallow water, spinning
in tidal pools, much warmer than the ocean.
The busiest intersections and lanes revealed
where the crustaceans had traveled—I imagined
stuck in traffic on their routes to work, or visiting friends
who stayed in different neighborhoods down shore.
We stayed until the beach emptied, our pails full.
Never worried that there might be nothing
left in Maine one day. Nothing for us to find.
We carry our home, carry it on our backs.
When my sister takes my hand, I follow
along the curb of the littered sidewalk, jump
whenever the concrete breaks for pavement.
We dodge the shifting shadows of curious customers
who crash into crowded shops. Why would we go inside
when we trust shopkeepers must keep their custom
of selling porcelain ashtrays shaped like California,
plastic snow globes that storm winter weather
over the same sun‐soaked Bay we visited yesterday.
Chinatown is always Chinatown, no matter what
town we have found ourselves in. No matter how many
years and miles have worked their way between us.
This time, only we seem different—
tourists of our own home, the new home,
a home made apart from any familiar place.
To cross the sidewalk, we leap from stripe to stripe.
Children again, with no place to go.
from the English Honor’s Thesis, Something Leads Him Down, by Uyi Agho ’11
He contemplates his loss
November was long,
after his wife died. That day,
put on his loafers and
It was snowing
but he wasn’t cold
and he wanted to be cold.
Alone he is unknown as the bare branches
and unrecognized as a lover long gone,
frozen puddle-reflections startle him
as he shuffles with hands in trouser-pockets,
he does not know that man on the other side.
In stride he thinks
he resembles the sky
as the sun wanes,
a smudge dark
as it creeps toward
He drowns stars
in his solitude.
As he walks beside an old river,
he likes to imagine himself slipping through
the thin layer of silver sleet, where the surface blurs
and he sees her eyes peering through.
Where he smiles before the glass freezes over,
the corners of his lips falling with the snow.
He knows that he
when it comes,
settling over his mind
in a thick dust.
Tonight, he weeps at the river
that was alive last summer.
Only now is he surprised by its death,
slow water trapped beneath stiff ice.
Just now he recalls when it ran, clear and lively.
The day he gave her the journal
he found her in the bedroom
unlike her self.
She said she wanted to write
she had called
in a voice that put him on edge,
she was curled on her side
on top of the covers,
her eyes wide,
her body unmoving.
I had the dream again
of the dogs.
The hell-hounds were here,
down by the bed.
I could hear them panting.
In Boston, it is fast,
the city people
crowd in and out
and leave you
and your mind.
The T speeds,
a bullet, with the fast
ones, not you,
you sit under the plastic
awn with the bloated posters
of missing children
and victims of abuse
for the next one
it is your first day
and you are already late.
My, how your slow eyes have chalked up
my body and how deliberate your fingers
have pulled down the zipper of my fine dress.
Each day is either— either or with you. Tell me again,
which day is the one that you last missed me.
Think: to miss someone who lives just downtown.
Indeed, I have acted, tried to become the better actor,
to prove all the fantastic ways that I could change into you,
prove you, a worn costume I could remove should I choose.
Maybe it is true, but if you are, won’t you call me
a masochist, too? They already do. At least I have not
been selfish: I should be proud to play selflessly you,
would act small every day if acting smaller were acting
you. Play me: return me to that moth-balled shop.
Find yourself a perfect pair. How could I not mind
if another shiny girl found you here. You, treasure,
now priced at half what I cost. Tell me, which one
of them did you own before, could you own later.
Who else do you own now? Sure, sell me out: buy me back.
Go on and loan me. I cannot be bargained for.
Why is nowhere decent
open for food before ten,
and is everywhere closed
on Sundays, boarded up
against the heat that sneaks up
my winding staircase, smoke-like;
creeps up into my library,
under the space beneath my door,
then spinning in the slits of my white window fan—
eight appendages, four eyelids, heat
in the sheets where we stick,
are stuck sticking again, stuck together,
bound with nowhere else to go.
So, we stay, continue to search
for an open place on the web, any place
we could be, a place other than here.
On a whim I let you take me
to a nearby museum crawling
with insects, pegged arthropods
behind glass panes, needled legs
that were an exhibit, storied stairs
that were a piano. Orange stickers
admitted us. Imagine this:
a screen that showed our bodies’ heat.
And how we tried to preserve each other
alive inside those translucent bubbles
shining like cellophane wrap
on expensive books. You wrote the rules—
you picked me up, checked me out
before you took me home. I hurried
upstairs. I am a child for you, a child
who I never would have agreed to be.
I could not forget to save us, to stick
my ticket against my mirrored vanity.
Remember my blue dress,
my spine against the wall,
your educated hands
in, over, between it all.
Remember messing your hands in it all.
How could you be interpreting me—
you, blind to our literate physicality,
me, enraptured by this novelty
of language, bottled fantasy,
I was a new story that you wanted
to skim through, then flip back again.
Go on: crack me
a wonder how fresh sheets feel.
Carry me down whenever
you are in the right mood.
Pause at all the good parts.
I always have been afraid of spiders.
I dreamt that my stuffed bear was webbed
to the foot of my bunk bed, and a spider
carried him down on its beetled back,
down the ladder, down to the ground,
scuttled across the dirt wood floor,
opened the door to somewhere different.
Alone, I wondered
had that spider taken me.
Sure, I imagine there is something wrong with me:
I imagine many things are wrong with me,
for me, about me, in me, as if I’d pressed us in a children’s book.
But I imagine that all of us should want to want to be wanted.
We all must want to survive, to be given to our own web,
suspended in linguistic throws, our poisoned hearts.
Strange, how simple, to be bound apart.
knock the magpies knock beaks
on our windowpanes morning rains
outside on land grained
inside I lie next to you
we are the sole breathing
bodies in an airless room
a marvel how your spine curves
just as the dirt road out front
later we will try to sit outside
to paint more Madonnas
to make new what has aged
to make true moments entombed
replicas sown of romance we are
unnamed masters of stolen masterpiece:
what we have made is not earnest
there are doors and foreign locks
keys with heavy tassels
there are windows here kept closed
guarding against the clambering birds