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Friday Feature: Sydney Mayes

Sydney Mayes is a poet from Denver, Colorado. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Atlantic,, The Iowa Review Blog, Gulf Coast Journal, Obsidian, Denver Quarterly, Booth, and Prairie Schooner. Mayes won the 2021 Iowa Chapbook Prize for her chapbook You Look Just Like Your Mama. She was selected by Roger Reeves as a finalist for the 2024 Furious Flower Poetry Prize. Executive Editor of Nashville Review, Mayes is an MFA Candidate in Poetry at Vanderbilt University. Follow Sydney on Instagram.

Exhaustion Whispers Tough Love to The July Child 

The accumulation of geese photos, sonnets and tears matters to no one 

but you. The jazz musician that broke your hymen, the tomato garden, 

Rita Dove’s Collected cannot care for you. Your mother loses 

your poems beneath listing contracts, your grandmother’s lazy eye falls 

to her breast when you read, but you still go on, writing lyric chicken scratch 

over your chemistry notes, cleaning out Tattered Cover’s poetry section, trying 

to keep hornworms from the only tomato large enough to eclipse moon.

And where will this get you? Sat in front of the poet, 

her left ankle buffing the cherrywood table, asking you if you had 

a happy childhood. The teal legs of her glasses socking within themselves 

hawk wing and concrete obscured nest. She has read your poems so she knows 

the answer, but how kind of her to still listen to your response. How kind 

of her to acknowledge the fissure of your 

hands cracking the spines of poetry books.


Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.


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