Third Place Poem: “Poor Boy’s Gospel” by Michael Bloodworth

Poor Boy’s Gospel

My dad died before I could kill him.
I always imagined reading back his sins
like Saint Peter. I’d reprimand
his absence, scorn the idle time he’d wasted,
and end with the two kids he’d failed the most.
But by then, the man dead to me had overdosed.

I never met him. He never bothered to visit.
But I am left living with his image, can hear the gasping,
grasping sounds of his breathing, see the empty syringe—

My grandmother had two dozen brothers, now gone to the wind.
I always imagined their gravestones like monolithic mountains. I’d climb
their tops and find holy scriptures there,
where West Virginian breezes blow, and the trees swim in the air like the cilia inside of me,
a cacophony of breathing.
Now, when I’m sick with flu, I’ll cough along
but it’s their coal dust that coats my lungs.

These graveyards have buried family and history.
We live on an altar marked for slaughter,
we scapegoats raised from infancy—
and I am Isaac. and I am bound, and I shout from my lungs,
and I have been waiting for the angels to come.


Michael Bloodworth is an artist and designer from LaVergne, Tennessee. He grew up in a roach-infested apartment twenty-nine minutes from Nashville before escaping. In Appalachia, he’s found himself and a family. Nowadays, he spends his time creating when he can and surviving when he can’t.


**Featured image by Tomas Trajan on Unsplash (altered b & w)

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