Category Archives: Poetry

Feature: Found Poems

Gandy Dancer’s mission has always been about connection. As the literary journal of the SUNY system, we feature art and writing from all over the state, from Fredonia to Plattsburgh, from Suffolk County Community College to Brockport. Our goal is to bring together readers and writers and artists. For a special section in this issue, we reach farther, beyond the state borders, even.

We are delighted to bring you six poems by young writers, students at Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, DC. In their language arts class with teacher Donna Lewis Johnson, herself a writer, these students wrote the following “found” poems; that is, they composed poems drawing language from a newspaper article reporting a recent shooting. We encountered these poems and Lewis Johnson’s article about them in The Washington Post (“D.C. students’ ‘found’ poems reveal their weariness with gun violence, January 31, 2023.”)

While they are not SUNY students, we want to publish their work and honor it, as it says so much about gun violence, an epidemic that threatens us all. These poems don’t look away from what is difficult or upsetting, and they don’t let us look away, either. With understatement and grace, they demand accountability, action, response.

Matthew Ingram


Gunfire killed one man.

Gunfire injured three others.

Gunfire injured an 8-year-old child.

Zahyr Canty

Pow Pow

A grim ritual repeated often

accountability for those

involved, turning to a word

used frequently as gunfire.

Kristian Edwards

A Wounded Community

Chief stood behind crime-scene tape

across four lanes of Georgia Avenue

rush hour brought to a halt

Gunfire killed a man

and injured a child

He recited the details

and expressed anger

He did so again

and again

and again

A grim ritual

he often repeated

He hoped the community demands


as gunfire generated headlines

and claimed children’s lives

turning said community

to a wounded community

Alayah Boothe

Bloody Violence

January 3rd shooting

expressed anger.

Stood behind crime-scene tape

across four lanes of Georgia Avenue.

An 8-year-old child, including

one man killed in the gunfire.

Gunfire has generated headlines and

claimed children’s lives.

shooting scene

shooting scene

shooting scene

behind the scene of Georgia Avenue

Antywon Cosby

End Gun Violence

Stood behind crime-scene tape draped across four lanes Georgia Avenue

the evening rush hour brought to an abrupt halt

Gunfire that killed one man, injuring three others including an 8-year-old child

He recalled sparse details of the January 3 shooting

and expressed anger

Grim ritual he has repeated often in his two years

Wednesday after two children and a man were shot and wounded exiting a metrobus in

Northeast D.C.

Contee said he hoped the community demands accountability for those involved.

Gregory Simon

No Violence Needed

The evening rush hour brought to an abrupt

halt by the hail of gunfire

that killed one man

injured three others

including an 8-year-old.

Contee said he hoped

the community demands


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Juliana Warta


fire flickers faster

than the time it takes

to blow out the mallow

i’ve burned to a crisp

camp close to the coy cove

let the bait bait the fish

smoke the slab on the stove

Dad said it’s best burnt

don’t touch the

pointed petal poison plants

flicker your flash at black bears

they scatter like smoke

fan out the fire before nightfall

Dad once did it for me

his hand burned a black crisp

the rest to ashes

Juliana Warta is a fiction concentrated creative writing major at Purchase College from Long Island, New York. She first started writing in middle school: mostly short stories, poems and scripts from her favorite shows. Her favorite themes are magical realism, horror, and romance.

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Selinda Lawren

Up On A Star

In a world where fathers didn’t wear their capes

everywhere but home.

Stitched with the force of the blue,

blood of red,

and beliefs of the white.

In a world where mothers did

not live on the line of my doorway,

dragging poorly sewn suitcases,

spilling festering words

and empty memories.

In a world where dreams are closer

than graves,

and voices are taught

to be cherished.

I wish.

Selinda Lawren (she/her) is currently a freshman studying biology at SUNY Binghamton. She is passionate about poetry and the process of translating human experiences through art and language.

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Frances Sharples

Currencies of Loyalty

I stretch fingers across dust-tangled stale room/mate      wanting her/them the same way I do when I hurt for     a cigarette — I’m not good     to stay at home anymore. ever since    those     slabs of something     durable. I ask my brother     what he wants for the holidays,     he says     something durable, which is to say          something that will last. so I think of that click/slam     of a door that outweighs me          tenfold, keeping me in/out of          the/my   bedroom. I’m not good to stay     home   alone           with something durable     in the    house. instead I want        to fall asleep in her room, the fire alarm disconnected,    the   locks broken, my microplastic

ten-cent grinder forever lost

in the fast-food wrappers               and ash               of her dining room table

everyone’s shit

drudging through the leaking pipes of the         ten-square-inch bathroom more smoothly          than some old/slut/me would slip home          on some cold November morning          and sure, I’ll stay       another round, weak-willed enough that     it doesn’t take to/o much these days. I drink from her hand,     I’ll get too high and lose       myself in her city of torn upholstery, stolen furniture. I’ll get too close and suffocate                on cat-induced dust and leftover        Halloween vomit on the carpet. plea/se, if I start to feel anything again          I’ll show myself out — slip like a slut     on some November morning, walking home with the     heavy      conscience of something      durable. the sharp nick of a door that does not               really even need a lock. when           I stay                in one place           too long my eyes      become well/adjusted. pleas/e, when that goddamn durable door shuts          I miss more than anything               those mornings when I couldn’t see anything     at all — no one, no bodies or     tears, scars, blood left on my sheets or her inner thigh,   the ear/rings too many girl/s     have left in my bed by/for

   “accident,”          this purgatory      of pretty and its varying       currencies of loyalty. if only the door would      close with slab click,          cold and death sound/ing sweeter evermore.     if only we all turn the lights off again      we can go back to sleep the way that children do, & when

the lights are off,       who doesn’t look for          that sweet thing

for which we’re yearning, no, no,          I can’t keep doing it. doors        keep swinging closed. closed        is an ending, ending is durable. I want   thesweet   thing for which we’re yearning           like lollipop, found & hairy that dissolves        in saliva or               morning/rain water.

I want to devour it               and fall asleep fat       & dizzy in my bed. I reach for a cigarette       when it looks fat & dizzy. behind       this door my hair is dry. my skin       is poisoned. I need to stop being touched,       falling asleep in the beds of strangers that maybe       someday I’ll love,        take the lit end of that cigarette that we both            want so much and put it through her/their face            when I find it              between my knees               in the                mo/urning.

Frances Sharples is an English literature major in their last year at Geneseo. Frances is the Editor-in-Chief of The Lamron and Iris Magazine. They write a lot and talk even more. They also read poems and listen to music and love all of their friends.

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Lili Gourley


Starchy blouse. Heavy case. Deflated ball. Forgot.

Barrette, hard on scalp. Pin curls, safe? Buzz.

White rim, white sandal, no sand. Yet. Waxy

palm, waxy palm gloss on new Caddy, fits six—

plenty comfy. Don’t pick on your sister. Not

comfy. Box of toys. Wicker bag, where are

we going? Beach? Where’s Dad? Mad men.

Remember the life jacket. No swimming then.

Wide wheel, tight tubes. Hold me up.

Drown. Drown in your expectations.

Drown in your ability to unpack the packed. Are we

there yet?

Lili Gourley is an English (creative writing) major with a focus in poetry. She comes from Palmyra, New York, where there’s not much to do but be creative. She has had poems published in Gandy Dancer, ANGLES, and Iris Magazine. Her most treasured possession is the ever-growing pile of books that is beginning to engulf the entirety of her room.

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Sammie Terpening

On Moving


They say that moving is fine, if harrowing.

The change washes like a wave hits on the Jersey shore, all salt and

wetness and the moment of pain

and then it’s gone

like it never happened

and how lucky are you, that you’ve never experienced it?

Your love is like this:

Sea Isle,

Wildwood Crest,

Atlantic City and Point Pleasant, if a little more soured.

There are a million cities you haven’t been

to and there are a dozen you have, but none

are like the salt,

the sweetness,

the fake smiles,

the boho shops that steal your money,

the tired residents that come with.

You loved it so much that you thought about

moving to Long Beach Island when you were

twelve, scoping out the schools around town

and looking at house pricing.

Is it so lucky, then, that you never did?


What happens in Staten Island stays in Staten Island.

The fight club of the city, it’s got rules, it’s got a reputation

that lasts a mile and some.

Mostly, it’s that rule, and run the fuck away while you can, kid.

You, who didn’t happen in Staten Island, did not stay.

Lucky. You never did like this place, did you?

Even if you fight for it now.

And there is a beach down on the north shore,

With waves like overworked labor

scents like everything wrong with this damn town.

You don’t go; you never have the time.

But you always wish you did, because


The best part of those beach side towns:

the salt in your eyes

the water in your lungs

the lurch of sand under your feet.

The moment that’s gone too quick.

As much as you hate change, you love

fluidity in the ocean, how it never stills.

It could bring you along if it felt like it.

Be lucky you’re not dead.

All this to say, in every word except the fact:

you have never moved, consider it lucky, but don’t.

Wandering soul you are.

Lover of the state everyone else hates.

Of the borough everyone wishes didn’t exist, except you.

The one who wishes to be the waves.

Sammie Terpening (they/them) is a queer and autistic freshman from New York City. They are currently a creative writing major at SUNY Purchase, and have been writing poetry for almost five years. Besides writing, Sammie is a musician with vocal training.

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Mollie McMullan

S.S. Scarlett

There is a blood river between my thighs and

I am drowning

My mother wants me to make a raft of myself but

I’ve always wanted to breathe

underwater; to be underwater

I tell her about Aphrodite,

beauty born from men

Born for men

I ask what would’ve happened if she stayed in the water

      Aphrodite shakes her head; nothing is this easy

There is no option to form gills,

to handle Poseidon’s trident

The water has memory,

and remembers it’s ruled

by men

I am a vessel

I am a ship

I sail bloody waters

I do not navigate them

Mollie McMullan is a sophomore English creative writing major at SUNY Geneseo. In her work, she tends to focus on issues regarding womanhood and control. When she’s home on Long Island, she can be found scavenging the beach for sea glass and trying to train her untrainable dog.

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Mollie McMullan

Poisoned Against the Moon

Your mother mistakenly led

her daughters to the house of a butcher,

and when he flashed his cleaver,

found the door locked

You are now a body of static, forced

to mutilate words on your cutting board tongue

(You’re only beautiful until you open your mouth)

You wear red bras now,

but you’re only borrowing these breasts from your mother

It is now your turn

In the distance,

a washing machine hums

The door is locked

Mollie McMullan is a sophomore English creative writing major at SUNY Geneseo. In her work, she tends to focus on issues regarding womanhood and control. When she’s home on Long Island, she can be found scavenging the beach for sea glass and trying to train her untrainable dog.

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Frances Sharples


                               I don’t want to hold anymore —

  the children that pull up that grass, the babies that swallow

that moss, the men

  who drink up that river, the women who caress me

and wish to swallow me whole,

  if quietly. I want to find it

somewhere that is not here —

           my body, this earth,

some extraterrestrial hill

           where I can be quiet alone and think about it, all

something else. Mud cradled in the fingernails

  of a creature with love in its throat; antenna between

front teeth; ocean gravel stuck

  to the palm that slaps

me from behind. I am sick

           of dragging, of everything running through me

when I am the mother of the world. From river hillside

            I am something

covered in skin, sure, covered in

      shore, in wet, crashing, growth, melting, cascade, crest,

             breast and valley. Mother,

would you make me in your image? a planet that holds so much

                                                                       in itself.

Frances Sharples is an English literature major in their last year at Geneseo. Frances is the Editor-in-Chief of The Lamron and Iris Magazine. They write a lot and talk even more. They also read poems and listen to music and love all of their friends.

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Kendall Cruise

Learned Helplessness

I think the men on the street laugh. I think they shout, take false ownership because no one ever taught them how it ripples through. The women learn: bark, bite, heel. There is no right choice. The men will turn tales of you, make you bitch, nothing but stray, something to be turned out on the street. I have a hunger so deep that it can’t really be my own. The face I picture never quite looks the same as the one I see in shop window glass. In my head, the nose is always slimmer, forehead smaller, cheeks more hollow. I know we can’t both be right. I think when I said hunger you didn’t really understand what I meant. I envy men; sometimes, I think I want to be them, but then, when I’m clear enough in the head, I consider that all I really want is to be someone that others are afraid to hurt. I wish I was something other than a thing begging to be plundered. In women, the body can only be as good as the scene of violence. What else is it good for? What use if not to be gawked at, poked, bruised? Most of the time, I’m not quite sure I’m real. I’m convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could push my hand through my chest like clay. There is a danger in me materializing; I might start to think of everything terrible that has ever happened to me as something that was done to me. Girls like that wind up dead, dismembered so far past recognition there is no one to cry over the body. Anger is not a luxury we are afforded. I have never met a woman who wasn’t hungry, starved, scratching at anything she can get her hands on, her nails into. As a woman, violence is more like a test that you cannot pass. To be a violent woman is to be made crazy, to be a passive woman is to always lose; there is no other type of woman. If you were to slice a woman from toe to top you would find that it all led back to the stomach. You would find it shriveled there, and inside would be a body naked, thinned, and curled into herself. In men, the focal point, too, would be the stomach, but its muscle would be gorged with things not belonging to them. Their blood tests would come back buzzing. To be that blind you have to be so sedated you can barely see. To be a woman is to have sight so sharp it burns. To be a woman is to claw and scrape at the hope that one day you could be fearless.

Kendall Cruise is a sophomore English and adolescence education major with a concentration in creative writing at SUNY Geneseo. When not writing or procrastinating you can find her planning for the Dungeons & Dragons session with their friends, rewatching the same movies/TV shows over and over, or playing cozy videogames.

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