Spring 2019 Poetry Contest Winners

1st Place

To Hear 
by Kate Mildew 

“You will say END”               “N”
“You will say BOAST”          “Boats”
“You will say EAST”             “Eat”
“You will say HOTDOG”      “Hotdog”
“You will say GLISTEN”       “Listen”
“You will say SHIVERS”      (shrugs)

The ear that hears. The ear that soaks. The ear a funnel. The ear a sieve. The ear that is pressed up against a glass that is pressed up against a door. The ear plugged. 

Two fingers drawn down to the chest = hungry. The beginning of a peace sign + closed fist with thumb at side + closed fist thumb tucked under index finger + stretched fist thumb across base of palm = KATE. Popcorn my favorite.

 TV, radio, fan, air conditioner, ipad, lecture hall, coffee shop, meeting, party, concert. Whispering while the baby is asleep.

 If only hair cells a little longer. If only technology further ahead. If only actual Esperanto. If only complete silence. If only genetic engineering. If only comprehensive health coverage. If only endless patience to repeat what wasn’t heard. 

Elmo, Daffy Duck, Kermit
Mickey Mouse, Miss Piggy, C-3PO

If you go out in the woods tonight you better go in disguise. Does anyone know what a disguise is?” Her hand shot up, first question first day of kindergarten. “The skies are what is up in the air when you’re outside and you look up and there is no ceiling.” The skies disguise nothing. The disguise of the skies is blue. Clouds are the disguise of the skies. She put one cloud over each eye and stuffed one cloud in each ear to block out the laughter. She pulled the whole sky over her like a blanket and disappeared.

 She has to be in the front row . The front row irks the class. The class screams in protest. The protest takes place in the rain. The rain soaks the hearing aids. The hearing aids stop working

Working is difficult in the bar. The bar wants you to hear the order. The order is to listen more closely. The closeness is irrelevant when you whisper in the dark. The dark murders the shape of the mouth. The shape of the mouth unjams the words. The world is held up by consonants.

 Beep. “Yes.” Beep. “Yes.” Beep. “Yes.” …. Beep……..Beep…...Beep

 Repeat the sentence you hear. 

The ear hangs gracefully      
The girl stumbles

The ear is perfect on the outside and broken inside     
The girl is all outside all broken

The ear is tough to bite
The girl is devoured easily

 The ear inches closer      
The girl falls behind

 The ear gets pierced      
The girl remains walled off.

 The ear and the girl suspended floating in a tank. The girl a miracle who can breathe underwater. The girl surrounded by squiggly lines, symbol for the surface of the water, a shape like m’s. It means muffled.

Kate Mildew is a writer, youth worker, and drummer based in Toronto. She writes about money, disability, work, illness, rocks, nuclear waste, parenthood and more. Kate has self-published two comic books and half a dozen poetry zines and chapbooks. Recently you can find her writing in the 'Music Men Ruined for Me' collection, issue 8 of Feelings Journal and issue 3 of A Velvet Giant. Kate writes the monthly poetry newsletter Accumulation. 

2nd Place
Madonna, the Immaterial Girl, Lets her Faithful Down Gently 
by Mimi Jennings 

all those stained glass windows that incense appreciate it but

please don’t bow make


you got misled. sorry. lovely story

don’t mean to deny the solace beauty

that plainsong those prayers

that poetry.

i’m not beyond—

right here rough raw rude—

think forest floor desert well mountain cave—

thanks for all the glorious statuary anyway.

Mimi Jennings taught English in the French schools, French in America. She lives with her English husband in St. Paul, MN, having resided in Detroit, MI; Guigneville, France; and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. A sound slut, she riffs on the natural world, family, mystery; takes dharma to prisons. Her work is found in, among others: Red Bird Chapbooks’Weekly Read,SleetMagazine Online,Silkworm11,  League of MN Poets’The Moccasin, The Medical Literary Messenger,Persimmon Tree,Saint Paul Almanac, and in her hand-bound chapbookFamily of Sonnets. She’s earned Fulbright and NEH grants; placed first: The ParkBugle, 2019; Banfill-Locke, 2018; St. Catherine University’s Creative Work, 2012; circulates two collections. She understands all are kin.

3rd Place

If I Was Born a Boy I Would Have Been My Brother
by Robin Gow 

but we call him “Billy”
because my dad is “Bill”
& my grandfather was also “Bill.”

I would have searched the antique market
for old leather prayer books.

I would enjoy Necco wafers & Smarties &
I would wipe their sugar-chalk on my thighs.

I would be straight.

I would like girls who smell like berries
& who might also vaguely believe in God.

I think about this all the time
what a name does to a person.

What did my first name do to me?
After all those years.

When people say “Sarah”
I still look up

as if she’ll be there.

Robin Gow's poetry has recently been published in POETRY, the Gateway Review, and tilde. He is a graduate student at Adelphi University pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. He is the Editor at Large for Village of Crickets, Social Media Coordinator for Oyster River Pages and interns for Porkbelly Press. He is an out and proud bisexual transgender man passionate about LGBT issues. He loves poetry that lilts in and out of reality and his queerness is also the central axis of his work.

Honorable Mentions in alphabetical order by last name

On Why Every Every Queer Love Poem Is A Revolutionary One 
by Anna Allen

We grew like incense
Rather than house fire
We never kissed in the dark
We never held hands in the sunlight
Both equally deadly
It took me 18 years to tell her
That I found her attractive
And a hundred more to kiss her cheek
She took the beating of a boxer
When her father saw her
Binding her chest with ace bandages

And I lay in her bed
Tracing my fingertips over
her busted mouth, outlining
The perimeter I was already calling home
When we talk about love poems
We say they are reserved for the insides of valentine’s day cards
Those flowery words too fragrant
Overpowering the scent of war
Clashing with the scent of diesel fuel
And rotting flesh
Recalling memories best left in body bags
But I want seedlings again

I want phone calls until 2am
I want shaking hands
And promises that will make
Your head spin
I want to tell you all about it
Every queer love poem is a revolutionary one
Every time I get up here and tell you how much I love her
It’s insurgency
It is picket lines
Holding hands at the front of the protest line
Hopping the police barricade
Every time we say how we’re making this literal hell on earth
Into a happy home

You’ve got to believe it takes all of the guts in our butterflied abdomens to let it flutter out
Because saying so is a threat to the continuity of our heartbeats
Someone walked into a nightclub
In Orlando and made sure no one
Was left with a Pulse
Tears and blood danced with the sweat on their chests
Produced by the bass that demanded
Their bodies move
It was Latin Night
They were just trying to have a good time

You can’t write this off as a decades old anomaly
It is now
It is not holding hands in the sunlight
It is not kissing in the dark even
So I will keep giving you these love poems
This uprising
I will find her in the audience,
Point her out and say
“that’s my girl. That is my girl.”
And you will know
This is a revolution

Anna Allen identifies as a queer femme. She lives in Oakland with her three dogs and partners. She's performed at various locations such as Get Lit, The National Black Arts Conference, and Tongues of Fire. You can read more of her work at various online magazines and journals like Chronically Lit, Track Four, and Little Death Lit.

Nothing To Declare
by Michelle Brooks

Nothing to Declare
You don’t have to do anything
except keep your mouth shut. Try
to forget. Your secret requires nothing
of you. You do not feed it or water it,
nor buy it gifts and find a place to store
it. Bury it within yourself with no marker
to let people know it’s there. And it isn’t.
Anyone can see your hands are empty.
What no one notices is that your hands
tremble ever so slightly. It’s nothing really.
Your life is a door you keep closing, ever
so quietly that no one notices you’re gone.

 Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small, (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). Her poetry collection, Pretty in A Hard Way, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.

by M. Duckett Ireland

I took a second shower for you today
even though I figured you wouldn’t come.
The towel. Still damp from this morning—
but only
in the spots that hadn’t let go
of earlier.
the most saturated.
Its passage against my cheek
sent me climbing into a wet one-piece
on vacation with my family
when I was young. I would
to get the suit up,
the cold of yesterday’s sea water
slicing through my lines of pink burn
into every nerve beneath.
My body would draw back,
not wanting all that sensation at once
but so wanting what would follow.
And that
that reminded me of you.

M. Duckett Ireland is a writer, activist, and teacher currently living in Connecticut with their wife and daughter. 

Pas De Deux for the Firebird 
by Catherine Kiser
(for my sister, a ballerina and survivor) 

Satin covered toes carry you through 
cellular madness, whirling wildly – unchecked. 
Bravely you balance, plie’, releve’, tendu. 

Fling fear far, twirl, spot - a clear view
now in focus. Fate’s infernal dance you perfect. 
Satin covered toes carry you through. 

Grace flows from muscle, spirit, and sinew. 
Silence this sickness, sorrow – reject. 
Softly you balance, plie’, releve’, tendu. 

Fierce burning firebird, dance until you 
taste golden apples, honeyed nectar collect. 
Satin covered toes carry you through. 

Moving in patterns, leaping you knew 
soaring through air mends bodies near wrecked. 
Joyfully you balance, plie’, releve’, tendu. 

Dance my dear, I watch, believing in you. 
As sun finds the stage, light will reflect 
satin covered toes carrying you through. 
Brightly you balance, plie’, releve’, tendu. 

Catherine Hall Kiser is an architect, writer, and artist living in Fairhope, Alabama where she is inspired by kayaking the waters of the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Her poetry recently received honorable mention awards from the Alabama Writers’ Conclave in 2018 and the Alabama State Poetry Society in 2019.

Jersey Pier
by Barry Peters

You have to love a country’s confidence,
sticking out its tongue at the sea again
and again. On top of that, the audacity
of carnival--Ferris wheel, roller coaster,
bumper cars, bungee jump. The sweet neon
of cotton candy, Italian ice. The merry
goes round, all bets are down, until wind
and water rise the way they always rise,
if not this year then next, prophesized
by Genesis and Doppler. The salt air is rank.
Murderous gulls dive like ancient pilots,
like tethered horses that shake their wet manes,
drag steel and timber. All made flesh, again.

Barry Peters lives in Durham and teaches in Raleigh, NC. Publications/forthcoming include The American Journal of Poetry, Best New Poets 2018, Connecticut River Review, I-70 Review, Miramar, The National Poetry Review, Poetry East, Presence, Rattle, The Southampton Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Sport Literate, Third Wednesday.

A Father's Fairy Tale for His Grown Daughter
by Andrew Petrucci  

Blame me. I’m the bastard who caged a bird
and made it sing. I’m the bastard who caged

a bird.
I’m the bastard.

I fed you lies for twenty days & twenty nights
then squeezed the soul
from your sad little life.

When you were five or six,
I bought all grade two textbooks
I could find.

I read about crested porcupines
& white oak acorns;
the life cycle of ladybirds.

I connected dots from last to
first and painted a watercolor titled,

“Our first kiss,
you asleep in the crib.’’

I wrote a fairy tale about a princess
who held her breath so long
she turned into a platypus.

She had to be her own saviour.
She had to.
You have to. 

Not because life is unfair
or unwise;

just loose-fitting & flimsy
like second-hand shoes
or cheap wine.

So she swam.

The princess turned platypus swam
for thirty days & thirty nights

from the Isle of Wight
to the Strait of Gibraltar 

to meet the lightkeeper
who could breathe back
the breath of life. 

It’s late at night.
She climbs the last stair
bruised & bare.

But no one’s there.

The story ends with you alone
in a lighthouse.

The story ends
with you alone. 

The story ends
with you.

The story ends.

Andrew Petruccihas been previously published in Vallum, Poetry Pacific, and untethered. He is an ex-pat, part-time poet, and proud father of two beautiful daughters.