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,

violent immersion.

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

into names

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


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

Construction Worker

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


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


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


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



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