Friday, May 01, 2009

Contest Winners!

I am proud to announce the winners of the "Unexpected Light" contest: James Wilk with "Anorexic" (previously published in the medical journal, Chest) and Edmund Conti with "My Son the Critic."

The two poems could hardly be more different in style. Wilk's careful, clinical dissection of a horrifying disease and the speaker/doctor's own attitude towards it is exquisite, although some of the medical diction may be a little hard to take for those spared the immersion in medicine doctors must undergo. Conti's plaintive, playful, sleight-of-hand in impressing his son with poetry, written in witty rhymes with the relationship as a backdrop, could be classified as "light verse" if such a distinction were necessary. I'm mailing the hardback copies to each of them today.

All of the entries were good. It was a difficult choice. I must put forth one honorable mention, "The Mission," by Fred Longworth, that made the judging especially difficult. It appears as the third poem, below.

Kudos to all for your participation. I should mention there are two new interviews up about my book on my new "blog tour." The first is at Tara S. Nichols' Blog (adults only). The second is at Sheri Whitefeather's Blog.

Without further ado, here are the winners!


From the outside, I see no heretic,
no witch, no bitch now burning at the stake.
I see a fertile field stricken by drought.
My fingers scamper down the crevices
of her neck, spider-like, across the gullies
between the muscles, formed as fat receded
in some sick parody of glaciation,
leaving behind the lumpy soil of lymph
nodes, salivary glands, windpipe and thyroid
traversed by pipes for irrigation—veins
and arteries—yet still this land is barren
but for lanugo, powerless to stop
erosion by the wind, the breath, the ruach.

I palm the stethoscope’s unfeeling head.
My fingers trace the furrows of her spine,
parting the fine lanugo hairs that bristle
like wind-blown grass effacing the once deep
ruts of a packed dirt trail across Nebraska.
Her ribs are furrows, breasts prairie dog mounds.

I auscultate, the stethoscope a snake,
slithering, pausing, listening below.
Without the muffling fat, everything’s loud:
the trochaic machinations of the heart,
the slow iambic rhythms of the lungs,
the free verse borborygmi of the bowels.

The pager breaks my trance. I leave to write
a note of the encounter, order labs
and artificial nourishment by vein.
I sigh, reminded of the psalmist’s words:
Their soul abhorreth all manner of food;
and they draw near unto the gates of death.

I hurry to keep my dinner reservation
but pause outside her door to glimpse the girl,
a fallow field half-naked on the bed.
Fluorescent lights, unmoving in their coffins
in the ceiling, whisper light across the dust
bowl of her belly, casting angular
and ominous shadows of trochanters
and tubercles from the bones she’ll leave behind.

--James Wilk


Read me a bedtime poem, said my son.
So I read him this:

We say hippopotami
But not rhinoceri
A strange dichotomy
In nature's glossary.

But we do say rhinoceri, he said. Look it up.
So I read him this:

Life is unfair
For most of us, therefore
Let's have a fanfare
For those that it's fair for.

I smell a slant rhyme, he said, sniffing.
So I read him this:

While trying to grapple
With gravity, Newton
Was helped by an apple
He didn't compute on.

My teacher says that's not poetry, he said.
So I read him this:

René Descartes, he thought
And therefore knew he was.
And since he was, he sought
To make us think. He does.

That made me think, he said. But not feel.
So I read him this:

My hair has a wonderful sheen.
My toenails, clipped, have regality.
It's just all those things in between
That give me a sense of mortality.

Did the earth move? I asked. Anything?
Nothing moved. He was asleep.

--Edmund Conti

The Mission

God climbs down from the rafters of your mind
and sits across the breakfast table,
mooching buckwheat pancakes and maple syrup
and telling you the world has gone all wrong.

You're the one He's picked to set it right,
but if you fail at the task —
at this point He looks you hard in the eye —
He'll make you the wick to a perpetual candle.
After all, you are His child and He loves you.

What's wrong with the world — God continues —
is infidels, at last count three billion and growing.
He commands you to kill them all by five p.m.

Your clear away the dishes and the food,
lay Kalashnikov and hand grenades upon the table.
You gaze out the window at the busy, suburban avenue.
You think it over.

Times like this, you envy Abraham.
To please his God, he only had to kill a son.

--Fred Longworth

Thine in Truth and Art,

(moodwise ranging between 2 kilorats and 2 kilobunnies--slightly mixed state)


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Unexpected Light
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