2nd Place Poetry Winner: Love Songafter Sexton - Chloé McMurray

I was

the girl of the altar call,

knees bent and tears streaming,

god’s chosen for memorizing Bible verses faster than the boys;

the girl of gossip and drama,

of secrets and bullying.

Always the one saying

Did you hear about her?

Yes! She did! It was with him I’m pretty sure…

and other probably untrue things.


the one wishing

on eyelashes, dandelion puffs, and birthday candles

that the dead could rise

and bruises be undone


the one

with embers-of-the-fire eyes

with the chicken pox scar on her forehead

with crooked toes and clumsy luck

with thick tattooed thighs

and a body that takes up more space than women are allowed

with feathers in her eyes

with sour lemonade blood

and a fluttering hummingbird in her chest.


with wings for feet and bricks for heart

each I love you a wish to some genie in a forbidden whisper

each I’ll never leave a question, a thesis maybe? that’ll

never be graded

each sleepy snore, each sluggish sneak out the door

another cry for a hummingbird nest

at the tallest, highest


tree in the forbidden forest behind Cinderella’s castle

behind every broken glass slipper

behind every finger pricked bloody by

a rose thorn or spinning wheel spindle

as if love doesn’t hurt,

as if love could save someone like her

as if…

There is no point. It is

or it isn’t or

it is what it is and her hand in your hand

never altered the axis of the earth,

only stuck feathers in a nest for pillows

and tucked hair behind her ear

and poured her a glass of lemonade as you both watched the sunset

over a field of rotting lemons

that sour death

that bird hunting dog

that pumpkin at midnight

that axe by the tree.

Chloé McMurray is a recent MFA graduate from Lindenwood University. Previously, she graduated from Union College with her Bachelors Degrees in English and Sociology. She won the Rushton Writing Competition for Poetry in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Her poetry has been featured in Anti-Heroin Chic, The Underground, The Pikeville Review, The Albion Review, and more. Currently, she works in the middle of a cornfield--AKA: the University of Illinois Springfield. Her five greatest joys in life are social justice, peanut butter, otters, her fur babies--Scully, Odie, and Ellie--and her partner Ashley, most often in that order

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