Welcome to day two of Teen Sequins 2016! Today’s poem is “Cistern” by Aidan Forster.

The word “cistern,” an underground reservoir, originates from the ancient Greek kiste, meaning “chest.” If the body is a chest, a vessel, then the shadow of inevitably losing that vessel, i.e. the body, permeates Aidan Forster’s poem. Present too in the poem is what we inherit from those we love, how we inherit those people themselves, and in this way, never lose them. “I hold his living self/” says the speaker, “underneath my tongue.” The speaker of “Cistern” learns from their grandfather, romanticizes him, internalizes him, yet fears going on without him. “When the river dries up,” the living self remains, the memory held in place. Its water grows the “great white gourd” from Forster’s neck, from our necks, too.  – Robby Auld




It is true I drank the river water
my grandfather offered me. Yes, we knelt

before the river’s mouth
and touched our lips to it. It is true

he is still living in his body
like it’s a wooden house. He says

I should hold a gun like an infant
but treat it like an animal. And yes,

we moved from shooting Coke cans
to shooting rocks, then small animals,

then large ones. It is true I once shot
rabbits, deer, watched him peel the flesh

from the glisten of their ribs. I took
nothing from their bodies—not skin, never

bone. And yes, I learn to think of him
as more than he is. It is true. Yes, his body

tried to become less of a body and more
of a cistern. I hold his living self

underneath my tongue. I have heard
his head grows like a great white gourd

from his neck. When the river dries up
I will take all the things I love

and smash them one by one.


Aidan Forster is an incoming junior in the creative writing program at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. He is the blog editor of The Adroit Journal and the co-founder/co-managing editor of Fissure. He is the 2016 winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award, and made the editors’ list for the 2016 Adroit Prizes in poetry. His work appears in or his forthcoming from The Adroit Journal, Assaracus, DIALOGIST, Tinderbox, and Verse, among others.

Honorable mentions: Celora Blair (homeschooler, Kalamazoo, MI), Michael Cheng (Lower Merion High School, Wynnewood, PA), Marlee Day (Belton High School, Belton, TX), Olivia Hu (Port Moody Secondary School, Port Moody, British Columbia), Vivien Huang (Syosset High School, Syosset, NY), Amelia Huchley (The Harker School, San Jose, CA), Clarissa Hyde (Rowland Hall, Salt Lake City, UT), Annarose King (George School, Newton, PA), Vivienne Kraus (Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH), Angie Lopez (Coral Gables Senior High School, Miami, FL), Krzysztof Mendel (St.Euthans, Letterkenny, Co.Donegal, Ireland), Reagan Newton (Kinkaid School, Houston, TX), Maria Sigrid Remme (North London Collegiate School, London, England), Lily Richman (Brentwood School, Los Angeles, CA), Shruti Sahu (Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX), Nathan Shankar (Evanston Township High School, Evanston, IL), Clair Szeptycki (Castilleja School, Palo Alto, CA)

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