“Though They Called Us Two Maidens” by Avery Yoder-Wells

Avery Yoder-Wells (age 15)


This summer we try out manhood
like chlorophyll, a veneer on the fields.
Would you kiss him if he asked,
would you hold hands if you wanted to,
warm them as we wander the streets of Pompeii?
Your birthday comes just when the air gets cold,
our bulging pockets dripping with summer zest.
they’re not paid enough to care. Neither do we,
I have nail polish in every color of the sunset.
moments taste sweeter stolen.
No one would give us the world
if we didn’t take it—
if we didn’t know they’re not looking.
We don’t answer
the men who call for our outlines.
they don’t know our names yet
We haven’t chosen them. Names stink
like cigarette ash and sugar, dead giveaways,
too crisp and bitter for childhood.
our last hours flash with stolen colors
We are laughing, dry as leaves.
We are gangly skeins of bones.
the summer shadows are long on the football fields
we are curled deep between the ashes.
And until fall comes, we have excuses
blank slates for our secrets.
sweet as sap, rich as veins.
Tell me you love me,
tell me a joke
tell me you’ll do anything
as long as I don’t let you fall
into the pool—
As long as I only kiss you in the summer
as long as I hold your drunk hands close
your chin up high.
We started the summer together
and we pull autumn into our hands,
the sunset dripping from our nails
as we drag it under the horizon
looking for closure.
but our dead city is dying again
sinking us deeper underground.
I kiss you so quietly nobody can hear.
The edges of the leaves crinkle with laughter
and we are nothing but open wounds.

from 2022 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Avery Yoder-Wells: “I like to write poetry because it’s such a dance between writer and reader. I imagine poetry as a wine glass, beginning broadly, then narrowing until the poem reveals what it’s really been about this whole time. Poetry has so few rules—grammar, structure, and even punctuation are subjective. All that matters is enjoying what you’ve created, and leaving the reader in a different place than they began.”

Rattle Logo