Green Hills Literary Lantern






This summer belongs to the little lamps without gravity, flickering

            in and out of the night faster than the stars. I watch them dance

across the grass like constellations coming alive. For so many summers

            this is all I’ve had, Dad. Tonight I pull out the old chessboard—

black plastic bishops snapped, teeth on rooks’ crowns cracked.

            You set your pieces, handing me the black ones as always.


Even as a boy you made me go last—taught me some games

            take patience. I could never defeat you. Back then I once asked

where the light in a bulb came from. You told me great people

            went to the sky and caught enough stars to make the earth glow;

stars that couldn't be tamed became fireflies. Every summer we played chess

            you never let me win. At times between moves, the board held dust


like snowfall. I’d sit outside and name the fireflies, never telling you

            about all the constellations I found. I didn’t want you to know

I was studying their swift light, how I was learning the patterns—

            quick flash, long smolder, how long before the flickers

matched up, then fell apart. I used to wonder if light ever grew tired

            of moving faster than anything. Now, after a quarter of my life


sometimes I still don’t know where the stars belong. We revisit these

            broken pieces: white pawn, black knight, white bishop, black king.

You give the same stale opening moves, and in an hour I’ve beaten you.

            You turn to leave— still not letting me win. I have learned all there is

to patience. I want to take everything you think you taught me and teach you

            to love all over again.




Cameron Barnett is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Pittsburgh. He is on staff for Hot Metal Bridge Literary Journal, as well as co-coordinator for the Pitt Speakeasy Reading Series. His poems have previously been published in several print and online publications, including Winter Tangerine Review, Lines + Stars, Blast Furnace, Off the Coast, and Tipton Poetry Journal.