6 Poems, 6 Poets
A selection from our 2012 winner, first, second, third, and fourth runner-ups.
Bill Rasmovicz [winner]
If I could haul drowning Venice ashore by its ear, wear
the spotted pelt of the suburban night.
If I could only remember to put the toilet seat
down, buy flowers.
Have you ever wondered why the brain resembles
a meat umbrella?
Have you ever stared at the sky until a cloud began?
The buildings splinter this way & that, sirens pass
and sap bleeds from the trees,
and the way the tarmac shivers in the distance purports
a world multiplying itself by itself.
What I’m afraid of
are the prospects for human headed lettuce,
mothballs filling the ice tray.
I suspect the heart is a tiny owl.
I’m suspicious of what the mind acquires in utero.
I think I’m becoming a solitary beam of ghetto light.
Oh ennui is only another form of rapture,
the serenity of water to watch it succumbing to its own
forces. I believe there is a space in which everything
is essential, that the line between shadow
and person is seamless.
I know there is nothing more ornate than
a hard blow to the shins.
The arms, the legs, they could be recycled scraps of
ladder from the coal cellar.
The bridge buckling beneath us, a thousand years
compressed into the head of a pin, and pictures
to prove. Come, let us walk.
*from his winning manuscript, Gross Ardor
Water Long Enough
Allan Peterson [first runner up (tied)]
I can take you to where the two dogs are buried.
In the overgrowth is a depression
where the happy flesh and last blankets dissolved.
If you hear water long enough, you make out conversations,
see one pine tickling the moon,
see paths on lumber where the lizards crisscrossed,
young oaks handholding and the dead
under us expectantly reaching for each other.
The conversations are old overseas,
like water to the dogs looking back over their shoulders,
waxing and waning like radio, like tides.
*from his manuscript, Precarious
Mark Wisniewski [first runner up (tied)]
there was something in my youth
about alcoholic women
& I don’t just mean drinkers
or problem drinkers
I mean women who drank every
night & some mornings
who lied & couldn’t walk straight
who were shy sober but after three or four
flirted cantankerously then slept
with the only guy with nerve
women who left good
cash in bars
ran red lights
didn’t wear panties
failed out of college
or graduated magna because they
screwed profs in bars
these were my lovers & I
liked most of them
some said the cared & I believe
a few did
but none are here now
in this house
in these woods
where the hardest thing I drink
they are somewhere though
some perhaps recovering
some I fear deceased
& of those who are still
alive & drinking
I’d guess maybe
to remember me
*from his manuscript, Maybe Just Maybe
Gregory Lawless [second runner up]
It’s smallish, hard
to see. You can’t quite
make out the edges
in this light, you can’t
quite place the shape.
It’s too heavy
to pick up,
but when you look
away it rolls away
under the table, or into some dark
corner behind the curtains,
the potted mums.
The cat doesn’t like it. Your wife wants you
to clean it up. You don’t
talk about it
with your friends,
even when they point
and squint. Instead,
you just change
the subject. But you’re always
changing the subject.
*from his manuscript, Dreamburgh, Pennsylvania
9. Restored Equilibrium
Mary Leader [third runner up]
Stein certainly loved vests woven sewn embroidered.
I aim to assuage strong emotion: how soothing,
How healing, I find dumbwriting. Return, speak,
O Guide: “Although black floss on white linen
Is the traditional color choice, other colors
Can be used to give poems a more modern look.
Brown floss on beige linen or deep blue on eggshell
Are popular. Gold or silver metallic threads
Create a fancier look,” I read. I put it to you
That there is, not only beauty, not only truth,
But also, a kind of justice, in structural options
Besides grammar, in alphabetical order, in poetry
As a court of last resort, for Philomela and for me:
Visual poetry. Pleasure and defiance therein. But
It’s more, it’s a vitality I have to have available, the
Liminal and subliminal and luminal-just-rising I feel.
And the sinking, too. Not “high,” not “low,” not some
Debate between “quotidian” & “sublime” but an eschewal
Of debate itself. Not high not low but at the meeting of
Just-barely-on-the-surface and just-barely-underneath-it.
*from her manuscript, The Distaff Side
A Public Reading of Charges
Emma Bolden [fourth runner up]
She the flail threshing clouds for rain
She the blight ridding fields of their bran
Hers the hand which shut the stars’ tinny eyes
Hers the fangs which slit your pigs in their sties
Hers the blue gown lying lake on your floor
She the boat swallowed the spit up in shards on the shore
She the secret abortion in woods stained with night
She who boils babes to bless her broom into flight
She who floats bloated fish bellies upstream
Hers the glad tongue licking the hunter’s hand clean
She the mule crumpled from bones cursed to shale
She the town’s secrets nacre in one ear’s pale shell.
*from her manuscript, Malificae