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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Say the room is cellophane
except where you are
the rest, a giant bandage
See through the room
you came in —
to err is past.
This space is the cot,
Say, in this room there are no eyes.
You have all the room
in the world to heal.
Become transparent too.
Clearly, you can say anything now
in a voice without
a visible tongue
on the roof of your mouth
that could be this room.
Your tongue can settle — rest
like a blanket on your needs.
January 20, 2009
“... in this winter air, anything can be made ...”
— Elizabeth Alexander, “Praise Song for the New Day”
No school today. After lunch my grandson
and I make cookies. He’s seated on the counter
holding the big spoon for mixing things
while history flickers on a small screen
near 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 bus
where three black men were making music
on a raggedly tambourine, a juice harp,
and their thighs. I watched them from my seat
at the front, kneeling backwards, keeping time
with my gloved hands.
“An Exercise in Forgetting”
Brittany Blaskowitz Prichard
You are a paper weight with my eyes
a brain that only blinks mornings
You eat a honey bun, watch a Love Boat re-run
you don’t remember Captain Stubing
you eat a honey bun, you haven’t eaten,
you have already eaten
You look like a scarecrow, an old tree hollowed out
You lay on a brown chenille sofa covered in robin eggs
curl up with a Myrtle Beach towel instead of a blanket
Monday — I am your grand-daughter
Tuesday — I’m a black man, a handy man
Wednesday — I forget your name but I know your face
Thursday — I don’t know you but I know you are older than me
Friday — My name is Tom and I am ugly
Saturday — You are sleeping
Sunday — Your name is Tom and you are ugly; my name is Honey Comb
I used to hold tight to your leg
never wanted to leave you or the French fries, the party dresses
You are leaving me to turn summersaults in the shiny rocket
to be with your old dog Peewee,
your squirrel monkey I never met
but saw once in a picture
“Funeral No. 28”
after Mario Sanchez’s painting “Funeral No. 28”
Another procession of haggard souls
bleary-eyed from night’s death-watch.
All the shop doors on Petronia are closed
in 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 capes
pull the glass coffin-carriage past El Curro,
the Banana House, and black women
rocking under green awnings.
The coffin is draped with stargazers.
Crook-necked coconut trees fasten
our attention to the top center: the sky,
and in its clouds and in them
what might be an angel piping
for a flock of doves. After the funeral passes,
what I need to be reminded of
is the poster nailed to the picket fence
next to Signs by Salazar:
Have a ball
at the Dixie Hall
on the Fourth of July.
Come dance to the music of
“Faire sa Toilette”
After my grandmother’s mind went,
She still asked for the mirror and tweezers,
lying among the pillows
propped on the bed like a rag doll.
She plucked the boney angles
on her face without looking,
as if she were plucking ticks
from 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 know
a chin could sprout so many black wires.
I thought of those Saturdays spent
pulling milkweed from the white coral gravel
in my grandparents’ yard, rock dust
powdering 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 her
ready for God. This woman who believed
beauty feels no pain, who, near the end,
refused to let herself go.
(for my father)
in the end,
i was trying to save him —
even as it was midday,
and his dark, portly self
was plain to other drivers
then turned their wheels
to avoid an unpleasant crunch —
he was going to do it:
forge his march
across the black pavement —
and to hell with god or consequence,
or my inferior stick, gently prodding
to alter his course, circle back round
to 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.
i saw the reluctant lump of him
merge within the inky pool,
and aloud, i prayed he would find
compelling reason to stay.
Today, I’m missing Thoreau
The pond with its window upon
the fishes’ parlor
Thoreau with his boots at the edge
of this hole he has cut into ice.
It’s hard to hold a pencil when
you’re wearing mittens.
His cheeks are cold.
“Hiding from Jehovah”
Brittany Blaskowitz Prichard
If I open the curtains to my office window
on Saturday mornings the Jehovah will come.
He pulls me up in his maroon mini van, Bible in hand.
I know his knock, three loud raps
followed by a doorbell ring.
Last winter, my husband let him in once
after smoking a joint in the bathroom.
He was feeling philosophical
sat Jehovah down at the kitchen table
listened as he read from the Watchtower
asked my husband the difficult questions
even I don’t dare to ask.
Do you believe in Jesus, Brother Jon? Jehovah inquires.
Sometimes, he replies.
Do you pray?
Are you ready for the Second Coming? he continues.
Most Saturdays, my husband makes sculptures
in the yard while I clean house, sit down at my desk
hoping to find the right words to make poems.
If I hear Jehovah’s knock, I hide in the hallway
wait until he’s exhausted all efforts
left us with another message of prayer
scrawled on notebook paper.
This morning, I didn’t move quickly enough
Jehovah sees me staring from the corner of my room.
When he stares back at me
I pretend to be a statue, pretend I’m dead already
no one worth saving.
“Renaming of Things”
“There is no this. It is all an illusion.”
This 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, 2006
Perhaps it lost
the ability to inspire —
one of nine muses reduced,
deduced to eight since
Pluto is no longer
so far out
but 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,
Oui, you say, which makes no sense
to me, although it does.
After nineteen years
we seem same,
but are coupled and doubled
Are we fallen from grace, too
now that we are one?
The planets have lost a fellow
muse. Space has gained
the roving eye
of a profiled crow,
a spy, a spy, spy this,
a magpie that compiles, compiles
and I eyeball you too.
On our morning walk I tell you how I think
God 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 unborn
children 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 Match
or eHarmony, the one that’ll bring me flowers or
will buy me a cup of coffee with hope in his eyes.