The following are the top 10 poems in the 2009 Single Poem Contest sponsored by the S.C. Poetry Initiative and The State newspaper.
And take a moment to vote for the Reader’s Choice award, which will be announced with the other winners at an April 11 event at Gallery 80808, 808 Lady St. The event begins at 2 p.m.
Vote for your favorite by taking our survey. The readers’ choice favorite, plus the winner of the contest, will be revealed Sunday, April 12 in Life&Style.
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“The Healing”Terri McCord
Say the room is cellophaneair clear
except where you are
the rest, a giant bandageof nothing.
See through the roomto when
you came in —to err is past.
This space is the cot,windows sutured
with blinds.Say, in this room there are no eyes.
You have all the roomin the world to heal.
Become transparent too.Go away.
Clearly, you can say anything now
in a voice withouta visible tongueon the roof of your mouththat could be this room.
Your tongue can settle — restlike a blanket on your needs.
“Snow Day”January 20, 2009Barbara Thomson
“... in this winter air, anything can be made ...”— Elizabeth Alexander, “Praise Song for the New Day”
No school today. After lunch my grandsonand I make cookies. He’s seated on the counterholding the big spoon for mixing thingswhile history flickers on a small screennear his elbow, a man addresses the world,bareheaded in the cold.
Once when I was small,my grandmother yanked me from the back of the buswhere three black men were making musicon a raggedly tambourine, a juice harp,and their thighs. I watched them from my seatat the front, kneeling backwards, keeping timewith my gloved hands.
“An Exercise in Forgetting”Brittany Blaskowitz Prichard
You are a paper weight with my eyesa brain that only blinks morningsYou eat a honey bun, watch a Love Boat re-runyou don’t remember Captain Stubingyou eat a honey bun, you haven’t eaten,you have already eaten
You look like a scarecrow, an old tree hollowed outYou lay on a brown chenille sofa covered in robin eggscurl up with a Myrtle Beach towel instead of a blanket
Monday — I am your grand-daughterTuesday — I’m a black man, a handy manWednesday — I forget your name but I know your faceThursday — I don’t know you but I know you are older than meFriday — My name is Tom and I am uglySaturday — You are sleepingSunday — Your name is Tom and you are ugly; my name is Honey Comb
I used to hold tight to your legnever wanted to leave you or the French fries, the party dressesYou are leaving me to turn summersaults in the shiny rocketto be with your old dog Peewee,your squirrel monkey I never metbut saw once in a picture
“Funeral No. 28” after Mario Sanchez’s painting “Funeral No. 28”Danielle Sellers
Another procession of haggard soulsbleary-eyed from night’s death-watch.All the shop doors on Petronia are closedin respect to the dead. This one’s going out in style,led by a cornet band’s slow juke.
White horses with blinders and black capespull the glass coffin-carriage past El Curro,the Banana House, and black womenrocking under green awnings.
The coffin is draped with stargazers.Crook-necked coconut trees fastenour attention to the top center: the sky,and in its clouds and in themwhat might be an angel piping
for a flock of doves. After the funeral passes,what I need to be reminded ofis the poster nailed to the picket fencenext to Signs by Salazar:
Have a ballat the Dixie Hallon the Fourth of July.Come dance to the music ofThe Honeydippers.
“Faire sa Toilette”Danielle Sellers
After my grandmother’s mind went,She still asked for the mirror and tweezers,lying among the pillowspropped on the bed like a rag doll.
She plucked the boney angleson her face without looking,as if she were plucking ticksfrom a stray. I let this go on.
When she dug into her temple,the tip of her nose, I went to the bedside,took the tweezers from her hand. I didn’t knowa chin could sprout so many black wires.
I thought of those Saturdays spentpulling milkweed from the white coral gravelin my grandparents’ yard, rock dustpowdering my knees, our work clothes.
After, we’d take showers, powder our bodies.She’d dry her silver-black hair,make her face. Then, in sundresses,to town in my grandpa’s glossy Jaguar.
If it took all afternoon, I’d get herready for God. This woman who believedbeauty feels no pain, who, near the end,refused to let herself go.
“snapping turtle”(for my father)Heather Dearmon
in the end,i was trying to save him —even as it was midday,and his dark, portly selfwas plain to other driverswho slowed,then turned their wheelsto avoid an unpleasant crunch —
he was going to do it:forge his marchacross the black pavement —and to hell with god or consequence,or my inferior stick, gently proddingthe grumpto alter his course, circle back roundto his pond, his den.
a farmer pulled over in a rackety truck,shook his head,and brandishing a rake,rolled the hissing brute, like a leathery ball,off the asphalt, down the grassy bank,and back to the water’s edge.
looking below,i saw the reluctant lump of himmerge within the inky pool,and aloud, i prayed he would findeven onecompelling reason to stay.
Today, I’m missing Thoreau
The pond with its window uponthe fishes’ parlor
Thoreau with his boots at the edgeof this hole he has cut into ice.
It’s hard to hold a pencil whenyou’re wearing mittens.
His cheeks are cold.
“Hiding from Jehovah”Brittany Blaskowitz Prichard
If I open the curtains to my office windowon Saturday mornings the Jehovah will come.He pulls me up in his maroon mini van, Bible in hand.I know his knock, three loud rapsfollowed by a doorbell ring.
Last winter, my husband let him in onceafter smoking a joint in the bathroom.He was feeling philosophicalsat Jehovah down at the kitchen tablelistened as he read from the Watchtowerasked my husband the difficult questionseven I don’t dare to ask.Do you believe in Jesus, Brother Jon? Jehovah inquires.Sometimes, he replies.Do you pray?Not anymore.Are you ready for the Second Coming? he continues.
Most Saturdays, my husband makes sculpturesin the yard while I clean house, sit down at my deskhoping to find the right words to make poems.If I hear Jehovah’s knock, I hide in the hallwaywait until he’s exhausted all effortsleft us with another message of prayerscrawled on notebook paper.
This morning, I didn’t move quickly enoughJehovah sees me staring from the corner of my room.When he stares back at meI pretend to be a statue, pretend I’m dead alreadyno one worth saving.
“Renaming of Things”Terri McCord
“There is no this. It is all an illusion.” Li-Young LeeThis distant, ice-covered world is no longer a true planet, according to a new definition of the term voted on by scientists today. National Geographic, April 24, 2006Perhaps it lostthe ability to inspire —one of nine muses reduced,deduced to eight sincePluto is no longera planetso far outbut something dwarfed,unswept debris in its orbit —garbage for some dumpster diver.
Since 1930 it had been named.It is no different.We still are,aren’t we?Oui, you say, which makes no senseto me, although it does.After nineteen yearswe seem same,but are coupled and doubledopposite detraction.Are we fallen from grace, toonow that we are one?
The planets have lost a fellowmuse. Space has gainedthe roving eyeof a profiled crow,a spy, a spy, spy this,a magpie that compiles, compilesand I eyeball you too.
“Ghost Children”Vera Gomez
On our morning walk I tell you how I thinkGod has left me empty. You say I’m lucky.No kids, no husband equals freedom.Your breath escapes into tiny white clouds.
It is cold, January, the temperature frigid.When I say I still dream of them — my unbornchildren locked inside — you let out: “Single,woman without children, heck must be hard to date.”
So, I admit their spirits hover above me like ghosts.Each one as real as the next man I meet on Matchor eHarmony, the one that’ll bring me flowers orwill buy me a cup of coffee with hope in his eyes.