How to Stay Out of Puddles in a Stormy Town

A Collection of Poems, By McKenna James

I know how deep a puddle can be because

I know how many people are like us,

falling, storming, crying.

A Crooked Heart


The snow falls so slow it might as well be moving upwards

And so thick it blocks out the streetlamps.

I try to catch a flake in my mouth

but they all land in my eyes.


“Are you breaking up with me?”


My feet walked away from him,

Stepping around our entwined footprints

Heading the wrong way,

Getting lost in the snow.


I close my eyes as I keep walking into the darkness because

I like the feel of the snowflakes on my hot upper eyelids.

They feel cold.

They feel wet.

As they melt and

Drip down my cheek.

When the light burnt out in his closet

and he didn’t have a replacement,

I got scared and opened the door.

His Truth


“Are you breaking up with me?”


At my new school that fall,

the red paint was cracking off the wall.

It knew where it didn’t belong and

I pealed off the paint to help out.

He came up to me.


A boy named Jason cleared the silence from his throat

when he asked me what I was doing.

His long bangs shook as

his body shivered off an energy that

painted me a nervous red.


A few weeks later,

when he told me he was gay too,

his head was so heavy

that I had to hold it up with my hands

to look into his eyes

and tell him his secret was safe with me.


Our love became a rope holding us together

when I wished it was more like glue.

He told me ILoveYou are light words that get

caught up in the wind and

end up in the hands of the guys who gossip.

Even though home felt so cold

knowing that he could make me feel so warm,

I told him we would keep making love in a closet.


So, the truth sat in my pant pocket;

it’s not my fault the pocket had a hole.

When it fell out in December,

he called me to come over

to break us.

As I read this novel for school,

a rainbow is reflected on my page,

reminding me of who I am

when I most want to forget.

My Scars


That morning I heard two birds chirping in the tree

that was my tree all winter long.

I climbed up the footholds chipped in the trunk

to shove the couple from the branch and onto the ground where

they fluttered up my footholds and

drilled into that design I carved near the bottom.


I have slit so many scars into my tree.

A quote from David Levithan that says “hold me closer,”

because this tree was the only one that would hold me.

A warm lit match held by cold hands,

when Jason made me need someone this winter.

A loving but crooked heart for Jason.


I hopped down from the branch and pulled

the whittling knife from my back pocket and

stabbed it towards the two birds

who flew away as my knife tore through

the crooked heart I made when I

was in love with Jason in the winter.

The night isn’t as long as you think it is.

Darkness changes so fast,

especially when you can dream.



leather shoes, no socks,

fancy or funky?


ear buds shuffle white noise in my brain.


new boy’s lanyard hangs behind him so from the front it looks like

he’s wearing a dog collar, our summer job’s logo displayed.


the sky is sepia.


he looks at me the way that is either hate

or like.


i will my hair to stay in place in the wind.


he laughs, walks over in his leather shoes, and

says he likes my shoes.


i say thanks,


and he hugs me just like that,

Packing my tumbling pieces into place.

My ear buds fall out and I hear his

Heart beat, beating in time with mine,

His breath, breathing in time with mine,

And even his mind, looping the same love song as mine,

Playing in sync.

My hands slide over his shoulder blades that

Stick out a little too far from his back as

He pulls away and smiles at me.

I smile at the blue sky.

But then again,

shadows always stick and the next night


Cold Hands, Warm Heart


one You have shy eyes, two Ben says to me

three walking home from four work.

The streetlamps five reflect off his eyes, six

Making me seven look down.

I eight count the sidewalk slabs nine

And overstep cracks.


ten I do? I ask. eleven

Each time I twelve step on a crack

I thirteen wait for him to fourteen break us.


You do, fifteen he says,

as he sixteen grabs my hand and

seventee — pulls me with him off the sidewalk

To run down the fresh pavement road

Like it was made for us.

His house lights stretch out like arms to

catch us as if we were falling.

Then You Feel Magnitudes


I love you he says when

his hair falls in my face,

his eyes are on my eyes,

his nose brushes against my cheek,

his fingers trace my jaw,

his lips embrace my lips,

his arm leans against my chest,

his chest hovers over my heart,

his legs wrap around my legs,

and my arms lie dead at my side

because I have never been more uncomfortable in my life.

Or in love.

On our last night before he leaves for school,

good-bye tears cloud the corners of Ben’s eyes even though I’ll phone him tomorrow:

shining signs that forecast a downpour.



That midsummer night, I remember,

house lights stretched out like arms to

catch us as if we were falling.

I thought that was because we were.


When I asked Ben why all of his lights were on he said

sometimes it gets too dark.

I didn’t know what he meant until now.


“You used to be the boy that

told me his shoulder blades stuck out so much because

he used to have wings,

he used to fly through life,”


I say through the smoke Ben breathes.


“That boy cut them off when his mom shut him out.

Right after he killed his first love

to get her back on his side.

Since then he’s been pinned to the earth,”


he says and sucks in more

Of whatever is making the air sting.


“If you think that getting higher than this house

and then letting yourself fall will make

your wings sprout back to save you,

it won’t.


So stop.”


I grab the smoking roll,

he grabs me,

and he falls from his height.

We tumble and scream

and then we actually fly.

I stop talking to Ben when I manage to flap us to the ground.

in the dark,

so slow they might as well be moving upwards,

and so thick they block out the streetlamps,

leaves fall


i miss the boy who stopped me from peeling paint off the wall.

Last time I saw you, it was snowing


I know how deep a puddle can be because

I know how many people are like us,

Falling, storming, crying.


Above this stormy town,

we are falling with the raindrops that crowd the space between us.

I reach for you.

Hold my hand and hop

from raindrop to raindrop

so that we never hit the ground.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think,

~McKenna James