Three poems by Kristin Mitchell, the 2022-2023 Creative Writing Award Winner

We Can Still Be Friends

there is a scar on the inside
of my right foot—a dime-sized memory 
i wish would disappear.
warped and immortal, an image

burnt along its edges.
the carpet beneath bare feet
offered comfort until it met me
with collision instead of invitation—

i bled oblivious before
friends bore concern,
pointed, asked if it hurt.
i recall no pain, 

only shame for not noting
sooner. how could i neglect
my own rent flesh?
i lost myself

in our ebb and flow
unable to accept
the consequences
with which i now coexist.

i cleaned my wound alone,
bandaged it alone, fixed it
you have nothing to fix.

we played, with broken rules, a game
in which i may never again partake.
you called a time-out
with no promise of a

said you didn’t want to hurt me
but i’m already bleeding.
there’s no compassion in hindsight.

now you’re gone, carrying
with you the memory of us and
the lesson of how not to 
fall in love.

i refused to force the flesh
of my scabbed foot removed.
it would heal.
i would heal

the wound you left behind and
walk upright—
cicatrix exposed; skin repaired
but never restored.

the stinging ceased, the blood dried,
but when i spot my scar,
i hit the ground
all over again.

History Repeats Itself

“Jack,” they called her—
What a wonder she kept them all together:
Letters, postcards, dance cards,
Candy wrappers. A busy woman with
A thousand preservations in a 
Book of bound recollections.
A stranger turned acquaintance through
Photographs, programs, and packs of gum
Pressed against paper
Alongside recounts of love.
The past brought present with the
Devotion of a master protector—
Nestled in the years between wars, awaiting
The Depression knocking at her door,
Why would “Dearest ‘Jack’”
Recount any other time
When she could live forever
In her undone cigarettes, pressed
Flowers, and tea party invites?

Hands coated with the dust of an
Unfamiliar century, nostrils tickled
By the perfume of a locked attic and
Damp wood, eyes hungry for similarity—
I need a book
For my letters, my notes, my pictures,
Every memory made manifest.
Unaware of our future familiarity,
Jack entrusted her college to the likes of
My friends and me.
How silly I felt for stashing my memories
Away, unable to sentence such
gentle creations to their deaths;
“Junk” people call it,
But it’s hardly hoarding.
For what else will there be to
Reminisce one hundred years from now
When I entrust my college to the likes
Of an unfamiliar century?

When You Never Chose Her

Why now
When all her kids are finally home?
You’ve made it about you again.
She has to drive five hours
To clean up your mess
And do for you what you never
Would for her.
She’s never done this
Before. Why would you make her do this?
Don’t you love her at all?

We have to drive five hours
To hold her hand and watch her weep
For the man who made her feel guilty
Of all things.
She’s burying you, damn it—
Show some respect.
She’s run out of fathers because of you
And you were barely that.
You’ve run out of time
To apologize, to improve, to say
Goodbye, or whatever
it is cowards do before they die.

Suddenly, I find the tears in need
Of drying are mine

Because I remember your home 
And your hugs—I remember you
Teaching me to make mac ’n cheese
And play Yahtzee—I remember you
With all your endearments, calling me
“Peanut” and “baby girl”—I remember you
Treating me to lunch and watching
My games—I remember you
On summer days, playing your guitar
The old country gospel way—I remember you
And your bright blue eyes always peering
With love into mine—I remember you,
But I would rather not.

Because it’s easier to hurt
Than to mourn.

I hurt for my mother
Who just wanted a dad,
Who found one
In someone other than you.
My mother with whom grief forgot
It was supposed to come in stages.
My mother who strove to love you
When you loved to leave her.
My mother who chose you then
Who chooses you now.

How am I supposed to choose you?

Kristin Mitchell hails from Corbin, Kentucky. She is a Junior at University of the Cumberlands pursuing a degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis. Set to graduate in Spring 2024, she hopes to thereafter pursue an MFA from University of Kentucky. It is her goal to travel the world while writing/publishing Young Adult (or New Adult) novels that touch the hearts of readers through the exploration of life’s hardships and conquerable circumstances. She also plans to inquire into editorial opportunities in the years following graduation.