FIRST PRIZE: Desmond Kon Zhicheng–Mingdé
TANGENTIAL: A MOVEMENT IN TWO SONNETS
A poem is a mathematical problem, its craquelure.
Tonight, I will dream of Pissarro again, and look for him a proof.
He will paint our Montmartre in time, its thronging crowds.
Along the boulevard, its tall and naked trees. The cars looking like toys.
The sky receding into an unwritten script, a reduction.
An empirical understanding.
Of the other voice, akin to another person in the room.
He will overlay the archivist, who will be included as an afterthought.
The pedestrians will be walking east, inconsequential to his canvas.
Did we dream the same dream last night?
Art is, indeed, a revelation to the artist, himself a Euclidean space.
Art engenders a cruel but liberating double bind.
Art becomes the artist’s unleavened burden. And an ethos, trembling.
Its artifice an evolution. A created voice, that’s what we agreed on.
Such consciousness, distilling into space and time, their fetters.
This, after I popped cubes of brown sugar into my mouth.
They melted within seconds, each moment like a digon.
The way Pissarro’s chatting women seemed part of their surroundings.
As light a mood as the calm sea behind them.
If there’s a cupped voice, it is as much mine. As angular, an inception.
Perhaps an anthropomorphized creature. Swimming. In mid–stream.
I dreamt of Pissarro painting Eragny, within a Penrose tile.
There was a burly woman with strong arms.
She had an orange blouse. She wore a scarf that arched in the wind.
There were haystacks everywhere, like gilded mountains.
Have these striae become an open letter to every kind of person?
And have you become a revolving point, an Archimedean spiral?
A centrifugal force around which these letters need their anchor?
SECOND PRIZE: April Bulmer
its rhythm and its bleed.
So, a shadow of child
like a dream.
I only imagine her face
rising in me like a full moon.
And the heart—a drum,
percussion of an early breed.
But it is January 17th
and roses of blood
blossom from me.
My breasts heavy as fruit.
I will not spring her
as pale bird from
cage of bone,
or plant her as flower,
feed her with umbilical root.
But come, love,
scatter as a boy
a pocket of seeds,
as though life might bloom
among stone—or me.
THIRD PRIZE: Kenneth Salzmann
THE PERSISTENCE OF ASHES
In fact, it is the roses that remain.
They enter the house all summer long,
and longer. I place them on the mantle beside the urn
where they will expend their pinks and reds petitioning
what gods they know for the persistence of your ashes.
And they will weep petals across the hearth.
At times, I catch myself believing in the immutability
of ashes, as if we are of this place or any other. As if
the generations that go on spreading like ash will turn
one day to the fixed notion of a place that is home.
The roses were planted fifty years ago or more, a neighbor said,
by a woman who went about, as people do, growing flowers
and growing old, until there was nothing left but roses to testify
that she had ever been. And we set out to make a home amid the thorns
and petals of her life. We nested in the oak–lined rooms that remembered
all her moods and all her movements, but only briefly. And you
took it upon yourself to cleanse and nourish those roses, perhaps in hopes
of sanctifying a transitory life followed seamlessly by ash and bone.
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: Eli Ben-Joseph
I heard sidewalk steps,
saw a car–lined street.
I was a stoop jumper,
an empty lot cowboy,
a stray–dog owner
I dreamt salamander,
eagle, wolf, zebra.
I climbed oaks,
In a pillow picture,
I slew steel–armor wagons.
Awaiting a daddy soldier,
the war drawn down,
I had a vision
of him come home
driving a car,
as I stroked
grandma’s old tomcat,
ears torn in war.
I too fought battles –
with my paper air force,
my bathtub fleet,
till grandma called me to supper
before the street I lived on
became a memory.
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: Emery Campbell
MY WAYS, BYWAYS
Adrift down country lanes, my fists through pocket holes,
my easy, lived–in topcoat looking far from new,
I’d stroll beneath the heavens, faithful, Muse! to you.
What splendid loves were mine: romantic, matchless roles!
My sole remaining trousers had a gaping tear.
Tom Thumb, vague dreamer, as I rambled I would pluck
my rhymes. Above, my stars swished soft and I, awestruck,
would lie in earthbound thrall beneath the sky’s Great Bear
and heed their call. I listened there, beside the road,
those lovely, fresh September eves as dewdrops glowed
upon my brow like tonic wine to spur my art.
Amid fantastic shades I’d fashion rhymes and use
elastic, tautened laces of my stricken shoes
to strum like lyre strings, one foot drawn near my heart!
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: C.B. Follett
When she died,
I picked up all her parts
and rearranged them
did not see;
with loss of promise,
they tipped her
below the frost line,
and thought all of her
of their needs,
I soaked up Anna
into my own peat,
let her move
with my bones, speak
with my tongue,
until by cell and thought
she took me over.
And though they knew
they'd lost a daughter,
they were forever wrong
about which one.
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: Carol Frith
A PRACTICED DARKNESS
Water lilies blooming in a pool—
a garden in some nineteen–forties’ park.
My mother, young. Memory is cruel:
water lilies in a pool grown dark…
a practiced darkness. I practice it again.
Why are we waiting here? I can’t recall.
A layover, perhaps. An evening train.
My mother sighs and offers me her shawl.
I take it to protect against the chill.
The pool is stained with tannin, almost black,
the surface of the water cool and still,
no shadow of the lilies shining back.
The past has shifted tense. The future’s blind.
Refracted lilies shadow in my mind.
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: Donna Langevin
HELPING MY MOTHER UNDRESS FOR HER SHOWER
“You’ve seen more of me naked
than your father ever did,”
my ninety–four–year old mother says modestly
I think of how death will soon
peel her skin like a suit
three sizes too large
tear off wads of loose muscles
like padding gone out of style
It will undo her
unfasten her breasts like a bra
When Time, that old roué has stripped her
she will be light and ageless
Wishing to redress her
in the firm flesh of her past
I wrap her in a towel
to shield her from his grasp
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: Ellaraine Lockie
WAITING FOR MIDNIGHT
My grandson says Ouma, you're just like Cinderella
as I feed carrots and kale to five rabbits in the backyard
Seeds to the squirrels and twenty–some species of birds
Walnuts and dry cat food for the crows
I believe he expects me to entice them all
into my art studio to design a gown for the evening
We don't talk anymore about the mouse my cat caught
when he learned life isn't always a fairy tale
He knows by now I don't believe in cages
and that there should be only one zoo in every country
What he doesn't know is how insignificant that glass slipper is
How searching for it can rust years from their hinges
Open doors into rooms that breathe Marlboro
smoke, whiskey and musk oil
Ghost of the male deer donor hanging from a rafter
Men with oiled skin that lusters like a yellow canary diamond
Who smell the scent of longing and hunt it down
Catch and release until they're bored with the wounds
and slam the door in your face
Yet you open another before scabs form
Until finally you're bled dry and forced to heal
You learn to meditate in your backyard
To watch a banana blossom unfold
I tell none of this to my grandson
He'll have to discover for himself
the difference between authentic and synthetic
How the latter is only snake oil
That a fence around a place isn't always a cage
but protection from the other side
And that even a castle has a wall or moat
VERY HIGHLY COMMENDED: Rochelle Mass
JENIN & TURKISH DELIGHT
I keep my back to Jenin, don’t even know
how far it is, afraid to see the shape of it
see where twelve kilometers really is.
I'm afraid to see where old cars with kefiya’ed drivers
and women in white scarves come from.
Jenin, the best place for Turkish Delight
says Georgette who has a stand in the souk
in Afula, down the road, the other way –
she sews frayed seams for me
replaces split zippers.
I used to get fabric in Jenin,
blankets and fresh meat, Georgette tells me,
but that was before ‘73.
Good things there, cheap.
Turkish Delight even better than Morocco.
In Afula – the souk doesn’t have Turkish Delight
only open boxes of dry cookies
and lemon candies without wrapping –
I know when to bargain and
where to get fresh pita
but once an old green car
drove up to the bus stop
where four buses come every day
to pick up high school kids
from two schools
the kids got on, took their seats
then the car and the buses exploded
hurling blood and bodies as far as
the fruit stand on the corner.
They said the driver was from Jenin.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Lisa Aigen
I shift my schoolbag
plaid lunch pail bangs my thighs
rattles uneaten crusts
and a half apple.
a small hunchback
on the brick schoolyard wall
skips and bounces
carefully avoiding cracks
to keep safe
what waits in the warm apartment
a place set for me on the Formica
a fat oatmeal cookie
column of milk waiting to be lassoed
with thick ropes of
Fox's U–Bet chocolate syrup
pumped from the bottle.
Mama’ s smile in bright lipstick
a pin coming undone
from her French twist.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: Thilde Fox
Honi Ha’Me’aggel scratched a circle in the dry soil,
and prayed for rain.
The circle kept out the rushing wind,
the click of pebbles,
the buzzing flies.
He spoke into the silence:
send us rain.
Should I change the natural order just for you?
Look at Your brown hills,
Your empty lakes,
Your trees, blackened by a sudden flame.
Nature will renew herself.
Look at the cattle dying,
women dried up,
You should have planned better,
didn’t I send Joseph to teach you?
Lord God, the almond trees don't bloom,
the olives wither,
the cyclamen shrivel underground.
Ah, the cyclamen.
The rains came.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: W.F. Lantry
This garden, laid out where the pathways end,
with its low beds, surrounded by a fence
which breaks the wind, and keeps the wolf at bay,
gives cause for labor. Soil, mostly clay
and broken stone, provides a daily sense
of fruitfulness: we celebrate the need
for prayer and work, and by our toil feed
whoever comes to table. Gathering
fresh greens this morning for the common bowl–
some stalks of celery, a few of cole,
parsley, the last few leeks, cress– anything
that ripens in this morning’s sun renews
our strength, and here the season’s rhythms choose
and not our will. We celebrate the gifts
just as they are, and take what’s offered, trust
in rain and daylength, miracles of dust,
and sometimes, as we labor, something lifts
our eyes above the work: perhaps a voice
or flash of wing reminds us to rejoice,
or if we pause beside her statue when
the basket’s filled, and whisper Ave, we
notice the violet blossoms’ trinity,
given as sign, reminding us again
of grace whenever gentle wings descend.