PW #351: Young Adult Contemporary Verse: SAVING SUNDANCE

Manuscript status: Finished

Mentor Name: Joy McCullough
Mentee Name: Liz Heywood
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Verse
Word Count: 24,000


Maddy’s Christian Scientist friend Hope has always used prayer instead of medicine. But when Hope develops a life-threatening infection, her mother won’t get her badly needed medical help. If Maddy betrays Hope and forces a medical intervention, it will end their friendship. But if she doesn’t? Hope will die.


is not too old
for my friend Hope and me
to turn ourselves into mustangs.

White mane hairs and horse sweat
mat our jeans,
the high-tide mark
of our bareback adventure
on my live equine.

Now my horse watches us sprint past.
Hope is swift
but she slows
to let me catch her.

Our hoofs thunder through the pasture.
Hope gallops faster.
It’s as if
ears pricked, nostrils flared,
she’s a prey animal
scanning for disaster.

The sun slants farewell.
We gulp for air.
Our sneakers pound
ground grazed bare,
a sound we own

as wild filly-steeds,
freed by this grace and speed
fused into
our nearly-sixteen-year-old bones.


Back On a November Morning
before it all starts,
that particular day,
the first morning of deer season,

the sunlight sweet-talks me
into leaving my bright-red hoodie
at home.

The storm door bangs behind me
in the anthem of freedom
called Saturday.

Beyond the creek,
crows shout an invitation.

Mom yells from our trailer.
Stay out of the woods, Maddy.
Her words blow away.


I Keep to the Path
next door
on my everyday expedition
behind Jensens’ shabby farmhouse.

Broken glass, rusted pipes
rolls of wire are everywhere.
Sunlight gleams
on smashed windshields.
Weeds swallow old truck bodies.

Grapevines reach
to wrap the back porch
like tentacles of the Kraken
dragging it down.

The hulk of barn
flakes paint
the way my white horse
sheds his hair every spring:
by the handful.

Now he waits by the gate
and nickers.

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