2015 Lois Prize Winner
The broken places shape a voice
waves moving back and forth against the groyne
cornerstone against erosion that itself keeps eroding
voice is the broken place
in the water, where it divides.
So also my father carried us, early one morning
two hundred miles east to the Atlantic
in the raw red car that barely lasted,
a piece of the sun
driving toward the sun.
We got to the islands where no one waited
men in their boats vanishing down the azimuth horizon.
I will go out
in my boat of language
because voice is not only a wound
but also a craft.
He forgot his daughters, and moved inland, carrying his box of papers.
We gradually burned. Being palest I got it worst
sunlight moving into the open of my skin.
The burned place
opens the story,
The damages of that curve of Atlantic are fabled
graveyard where ships went down,
and men buried their plunder.
I thought my father was a pirate
and search all my life for what he took. I want it back.
Back and forth against the groyne
ocean wearing down the sea-walls.
Unfolding sun, I took in my skin
and kept it—for the damage
of illumination, wound
of voice. And fishermen drop their lines in at the pier
ghost of road, arrow, weir
the final slip of shelf
before water takes over.
My sister turned back
but I walked to the edge, ocean’s couloir
my shadow pulling down into depth.
All the ride home, I shook, freezing cold from the burn
of skin, at the edge of third degree.
The sun traces bodies
searing in the story.
Mother wrapped me in a sheet wet with cold water
to hush the burn, all night I listened
as rain drove through the willows
holding close to the verge.
Claire Millikin is the author of the poetry collections Motels Where We Lived (2014) and After Houses: Poetry for the Homeless (2014). Her forthcoming collections are Television (Unicorn Press) and Tartessos and Other Cities (2Leaf Press). She teaches for the program in Art History at the University of Virginia.
2015 Lois Prize Finalist
Deaf to the cable stretch
and snap, flash and rumble
a frizzy haired young woman
hard hat, silver-steel tipped boots
tools on her belt clanging like batons
leaves the row of chemical toilets
behind the chain link gate, adjusts
the belt holding up her faded jeans
isn’t bothered by the urine fecal stink
unnatural hothouse sweetness
tossing an invisible cloak about her
she steps into the white turquoise air
as if into music, swaggers back
to where things get knocked down
and rebuilt by misers
old buildings sink into bang
crash, shudder of non existence
new buildings show off ribs
steel skeletons flank girders
she heads for the crane
something big and dumb
stuck in a tar pit trying to crawl out
up from the empty space
from which everything emanates
not from what is
but from what is yet to be created.
Eileen Malone's poetry has been published in over 500 literary journals and anthologies, a significant amount of which have earned awards, e.g. three Pushcart nominations. Her award-winning collection, Letters with Taloned Claws, was published by Poets Corner Press (Sacramento) and her book, I Should Have Given Them Water, was published by Ragged Sky Press (Princeton).
2015 Lois Prize Finalist
Vandals had broken and entered
that building solid as a fort,
taken nothing, only chalked
our blackboards with words
I'd never had in my mouth.
The words were evidence
our teacher could not erase,
but she'd rolled down every map,
hiding as best she could
those unplanned lessons.
All morning we sat rigid,
trying not to see
beyond the edges of the maps
words illicit as refugees
crossing the border at midnight.
In school we were small intellects
ferried about in mechanical bodies,
their parts and workings nameless.
The molten language of the streets
the only way we knew our bodies
in those days, or the reason
we did not want to know them.
Now the cloistered mind was breached,
its elegant subtractions and divisions.
Still Mrs. Biedler plodded on, teaching
about the Belgian Congo, whose taboos
we thought more exotic than our own.
Later that year I'd stay after school
to read about national parks,
and on a paper stashed under the book,
under Crater Lake’s dazzling depths and colors,
under the wind-carved Badlands, haven
of outlaws, I would draw couples
linked at the hips and in cramped letters
write the taboo words, inserting them
into the lyrics of popular songs.
As if to link a book of natural
wonders to the body's text.
I remember discovering intercourse
in the dictionary, proof it existed
not only in the flesh,
but also in the realm of reason.
How hungry for facts we were,
looking to Webster for consolation.
Standing before these children,
I think of Mrs. Biedler,
elbows locked at her sides
that day sex broke
into her curriculum.
I've had to practice saying
these words before a mirror.
Refusing to be a disembodied voice,
I've had to coax my body
not to fade or shrink,
even from terms blunt as cudgels
wielded in the dark.
I tell the children, Later
we'll discuss the slang words,
but now we'll use the official ones.
I write them on the board—
and they are so classically
Greek and Roman, subjects venerable
as harmony and physics,
those scaffoldings of thought
we climb to reach
birth songs and keening,
the music that plays while the god
is torn and eaten,
the forces that hold the world
together and blow it apart.
Mary Makofske's latest book, Traction (Ashland Poetry, 2011) won the Richard Snyder Prize. Her other books are The Disappearance of Gargoyles and Eating Nasturtiums, winner of a Flume Press chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared previously in Calyx and in Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Poetry East, Cumberland River Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Poetry Daily, and other journals and eleven anthologies. She received second place in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg awards from Paterson Literary Review.
2015 Lois Prize Finalist
The great green comes.
Moss still hangs in branches
where leaves spread their shade
closer than clouds can bear.
Once you told me things
I couldn’t hear yet, couldn’t speak
beneath that hard February rain.
Rain covered the snow,
coated every branch
in echoes, in frozen light.
You told me things. I tried
to remember. I could only
hear branches cracking,
limbs splitting into jagged
breaks against so much white.
Maybe you tried to walk me home.
I want to see you there,
want your words. I know I got lost
watching unbroken buds
seal their joy in crystal cases,
close their eyes.
But look, now maple seeds
cover the ground with little wings.
Even the thrush comes to drink
this strange breath, this almost song.
Shelly Krehbiel holds an M.F.A. from Antioch University Los Angeles. Her poems are published or are forthcoming in The Midwest Quarterly, Sulphur River Literary Review, and The Fourth River.
Willa Schneberg has authored five poetry collections: In The Margins of The World, recipient of the Oregon Book Award in Poetry; Box Poems; Storytelling In Cambodia; the letterpress chapbook, The Books of Esther, and her latest volume, Rending the Garment. Willa has read at the Library of Congress, her poems were heard on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, and she has been a fellow at Yaddo and MacDowell. Poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies including American Poetry Review; Salmagundi, Poet Lore; Women’s Review of Books; Calyx Journal, and the newly published Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace. She is an LCSW in private practice in Portland, Oregon. Her website: www.threewayconversation.org
The Margarita Donnelly Prize for Prose Writing is Open!
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