national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014


Elizabeth Burdette  • 
College of Charleston

for my mother


A man had written head on his forehead, and hand on each hand, and foot on each foot.
He had walked the squares of cement leading to his house,
Stooped at the seam of each to write sidewalk. He’d identified
each room with the blackest marker, for uniformity’s sake.


You have clinical depression, a doctor had said. The man
had looked up into the isolated brightness glaring down like ice,
What does that mean?


Fenced-in back pews and fragile steeples,
shuttered eyes had fallen
into drying hands folded for prayer, jammed under the man’s chin.
He turned eyes to the vaulted ceilings for hope.


Into the suburbs he had gazed, Unrecognizing, frustrated beyond belief
In a loving God. On the suburbs, he’d written mirror
And on his reflection, he’d written real. Reality


Is power, he had realized and
Began writing blackest marker on everything:
Family photo, necktie, favorite recipe, coffee mug.
I can create new realities! the man had exclaimed


To no one in particular. He wrote paid on his daughter’s tuition bill and
Calorie-free on a slab of chocolate cake, authentic on his flock.
He wrote more-attentive on his wife’s heavy eyelids and
Home-more-often on the worn bottoms of his daughter’s feet.


The man wrote sunny across his solemn sky,
Second-chances on the wadded tissues filling
the trashcans. On his blackest marker, he wrote empowering.
And on his soul, empowered. Then one day,


He stood up on his pulpit and looked out at the congregation,
past them to the solid doors separating “blessed”
from “condemned.” The man said,
I will write God bless everyone on God.