st. augustine

by Jacob Smith

my family vacations to the same place every year.
it’s nice and we always have a good time but
i know every grain of sand on the beach and
we return to the same restaurants religiously.
i wonder what’s beyond the county lines.
i’ve suggested we venture to new places before but
they’re all afraid if they don’t get exactly what they expected
they’ll just be disappointed.

my mom asks me to come down to the water with her and
i think eventually i may but
i’m too deep in thought about how when
a boy likes a girl
it’s a test, a challenge, a game –
but when a boy likes a boy
it’s a debate, a religious divide, a political stance.
i wonder when someone’s existence becomes arguable.
i wonder what sorts of ways people have simplified me.

the city is known for being the oldest in the united states.
i remember a ghost tour through the historic town a few years back –
the guide told us beneath the cobblestone streets and souvenir shops are
mass graves filled with people killed by yellow fever.
told us sometimes people would slip into a coma but
their families would believe them dead.
bury them.
they’d wake in the darkness,
feel their way across the faces of friends and
family rotting to bone and

they’d choke on the last bit of air before
becoming fertilizer for the soil.

i wonder if in any final breath they wished
even one person had tried to look
beyond what everyone else assumed.

i wonder if they’re down there now,
skeletal hands reaching for my ankles,
trying to travel somewhere new before
it is too late.


Jacob Smith is a writer from small-town Perry County, Pennsylvania. When he isn’t wrangling his two dogs, lost in the woods with his friends, or listening to Taylor Swift, he escapes into his writing. Jacob’s work delves into self discovery and identity, dissecting the heartstrings that make us most human. His writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards with a National Gold Medal. Jacob’s work has been published through a scattering of presses, including Beyond Words International Magazine, Le Spectre Journal, Susquehanna University’s Apprentice Writer, and more.

Image: Moonlight on the Water, Winslow Homer, oil on canvas, Paul Rodman Mabury Collection, LACMA