HCYS: Blog

Girls by Phoebe Keene

Phoebe at Holy City Poetry Night

We are expected to look perfect, act perfect, be perfect.
If you don’t put on the makeup and wear the dresses,
then Prince Charming will rescue the girl in the next tower.
But I don’t want that life of being told what to do
and never having any real worth.

Go ahead, take Prince Charming, I don’t care.
I’ll find my own way out of this tower, this prison.
Who says only Prince Charming can climb it?
Who says only Prince Charming can crawl through the window?
Who says only Prince Charming has the key?

I will rip off the ruffles and make a rope.
I will climb down out of this tower.
Escape the prison.
I will live my own life.
Decide my own destiny.
Have my own happily ever after.

– Phoebe Keene, 8th Grader at Charleston Charter School for Math & Science

This Is To Saving Myself by Emily Roper

Emily Photo

In the United States,
the third leading cause of death
for youth
is suicide.

I’m hoping to fix this statistic.

Once upon a time,
the ghost where my heart had been
needed that statistic.
My scars itched
to be just another number,
until I took the blade from my veins
and put a pen there instead,
dipping it in pure red ink
and writing a poem to change the world.

The words on the paper were there for me
when I wasn’t there for myself.
When I couldn’t stand on my own two feet
I fell into the similes and metaphors.

Because my skull against two headphones
wasn’t enough.
A singer’s screaming voice couldn’t save me.
My Chemical Romance couldn’t rescue me.
Panic! At the Disco couldn’t hold me.
Fall Out Boy couldn’t rid me of my disgusting outer shell.
Even though I knew they understood me, I was alone.

Only putting my words on paper
could save me from my own self destruction.
Writing, thank you for keeping me here
before I hammered the final nail in my own coffin.

So this poem is a toast to saving yourself,
to keeping air in your lungs,
and words on the page.

Church by Ellie Fletcher

I could fill galaxies with their cries.
I could fill an ocean with their tears.
I could fill a whole damn church to the roof
with bodies of the innocent
or as we call them “victims.”

And because of what?
A color.
The idea of being in love with the “wrong person.”
The praise of a faceless God in the sky
or maybe even because they had the courage to speak up.

I want you to know
that this church isn’t a place to love
when you aren’t loving everyone.
Innocent men are killed for having enough heart to love.
This house isn’t a home to those afraid to speak
even though someone’s always there to listen.

This country isn’t truly free
when candy bags and drinks are mistaken
for weapons of mass destruction
meaning, yes we all know it, racism lives on. 

People are dying and all we do is wait.
How many people have to die
before this whole church,
this whole room,
is filled to the brim with memories of
men in love
women who spoke up for themselves
minorities shot for a crime never committed
“I swear he had a gun”
“That fag deserved it”
“That’s my boy, why’d they kill my boy?”

Maybe you’ll be in that church,
or this room
as a lover
as you are
as a witness
as a son
or as a body.

Letter to a Young Slam Poet by Matthew Foley (HCYS Founder)

Dear Poet,

Here is your Poetry Slam To Do List:

1. Breathe.
Breathe until you forget all about To Do Lists.
Breathe like there is an ocean inside your chest
sick of squeezing into the size of a swimming pool.
Breathe, expand, and let the waves crash.

2. Stand.
Stand on this stage like the ground beneath your toes
has been waiting all its life to kiss the soles of your feet.
Stand like you are supported on the shoulders
of every poet to ever put pen to page.
From Homer to Hip Hop,
from Shakespeare to Slam,
stand like the torch of this tradition
has been passed to you.
Because it has.

3. Move.
Move like every limb of your body
is a member of a symphony orchestra.
The song your body sings is holy.
Believe me,
you are a Hallelujah Chorus,
a Hendrix solo setting guitars on fire,
the drumming of seven billion drummers
that starts a new world religion of rhythm.

4. Speak.
Speak like you ate amplifiers for breakfast.
Speak like your middle name is Boisterous.
Speak like before you stands your middle school bully
and you just thought of the perfect come back.
Speak like your words are flint,
this audience is stone,
and the poem you spit is the spark
that sets someone’s soul on fire.

5. Write.
Write like every moment, every person,
every heart beating in chest,
every life pulsing in veins
is worthy of a love poem,
a gorgeous love poem,
and you are the one who must write it.
“Write about your sorrows,
your wishes, your passing thoughts,
your belief in anything beautiful.”

6. Be beautiful.
Better yet, be ugly
in all its glory.
Be every wart and scar,
every schoolyard shame
every secret bottled up
till bursting.
Bring your ghost towns,
your cracked vessels,
your bombed-out ruins of war.
Bring your perfectly imperfect self
in all its glory.

7. Be the truth,
the one once caught in the back of your fear,
until a poem became the key
that broke the lock of your voice box.
Now pay it forward,
knowing that a poem you write
can be the heaven to someone’s hell.

8. Do this for the poetry, not the points,
because on the day you were born,
five angels stood in wait for your first cry,
and when you did,
they gave you perfect 10’s.
It was God’s way of saying
you never, ever having anything
to prove.

9. Let’s call this “This Year
of Uncompromising Joy.”
“The Year of Getting Pipe Dreams Published.”
“The Year of You Know What You Were Born to Be.
Now Go Be It.”

10. Straighten your spine,
clear your throat,
and GO IN, POET.

Her Left Hand in My Right by Emily Roper

When I hold her hand it feels right.
Her left hand in my right is the only way she’ll have it
because the scars that line both our arms are secrets yet to be told.
Her hair seems so bright in the sun
yet it’s the color of spilt blood on a black satin rug.

That’s the way her voice is too
except with the edge of a knife added into the mix,
like shes cutting my throat every time she says ‘I love you’.
And then the night comes her dress is skinny jeans
and an ‘Of Mice And Men’ shirt,
while I wear a tie because she loves the way I take it off
when she gets out the car.

When we pull up to the place I want to take her,
her left hand in my right, but we get thrown out
for the disgrace against all Christians is our doing
and they toss you to the street like a bunch of garbage,
telling us to pray, spitting on us as if we are murderers.
But that’s just one date

And I wish I could take her out somewhere fine,
without being tossed out,
without having people tell us to kiss for their enjoyment.
I’ll kiss her on my own time, thank you kindly,
and I’ll hold her hand like I want
with her left in my right.

Scribbled Ink by Joseph Blouin

What makes me crave ink scribbled onto paper
until it forms symbols we know as letters?

Poetry to me is not just a meaningless set of scribbles
turned to words
which will turn page upon page
until it is a paragraph,

To me it is a art.
A art for the broken hearts,
The lost that will never be found,
The scared, and the hopeless.

For them to express
Express their tears
into a meaningful clouds of jumbled letters,
Express the enraging feeling in our fiery eyes
Express that feeling which you must endure at every funeral

You weep for the lost souls traveling to who knows where
The ones which you laughed and cried by
Only to watch as they fall
never get back up again.

Poetry is the expression of our life
A journal to be written on anywhere, anytime
An art which heals the broken
And I do not mean
the stupidity of attaching a skateboard to a go cart broken.
I mean the healthy who lie in a pool of pain
in these dark dreary nights broken.

Game of Poker by Emile Holtzhausen

This life
It’s a game
A game of poker
No wonder why it sucks

The chips are money,
And money is wanted,
So bad that people will kill
So sad because it a piece of paper.

And for the cards
Those are people
And they are hated
For some random reason
They will always be hated

The table
That’s the world
The world of wars
Where people die
And others cry

The aces and kings
Those are the superiors
They rule the twos and threes
Then there’s the jokers.

They are the wanted
The criminals
The bad people
And the ones that kill

All of this
Is in a game of poker
I’m an ace,
He a joker,
And this is no ones place

A game poker
That all it is
Just fun and games
That’s our life.
A game of poker

Mysterious Death by Phoebe Keene

Life is a mystery, if you know what I mean
Actually, everything is
You never know the hidden truths
Some things, no one knows the whole truth about
Some things we created but are unknown
Unknown to everyone alive
But not dead
Too many secrets disappear with death
Death is a thief
He steals bodies
He destroys happiness
My dear death,
Why do you steal?
Why do you destroy?
Why do you make us suffer?
Why do you separate us?