Lois Prize Winners!

13th Annual Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize

 

WINNER

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"Rise Up"

by Nicole Rollender

We picked through tiny bones scattered in the oldest part of the cemetery,

delicate bird skulls, and are these horse teeth? You kneeled, placing a branch

on a mother’s grave. A spirit free in the trees, flying over an old cow.

And a heart somewhere, cleaving. But the living go on: A woman peels apples

calmly, in morning light. Or, later, she dozes by a window, snow dripping off eaves.

I remember our walks in boneyards at twilight, when you’d say we don’t survive

on bread alone. We all share the same love that turns to grief. It’s been a giving

and a letting go, what I can’t yet say unspooling out into air. From bed you gave

me the recipe for dying well – humming through night pain, praying to St. Joseph

for a happy passing, resting sea shells on your chest, placing honey on your tongue.

I planned to place silver coins on your closed eyes when the next world called you,

sure currency. You said your suffering (bone, bone on fire) would wing you surely

into happy afterlife. Now I knead bread because it’s a way of being useful, a way

of resisting. Are you floating in a clear-bottomed boat over me, in an eternal dream

of light and glass? Distance from God means absence of stars, a nun notes in her breviary.

What if, one more time, I could take your arm and we could stroll between graves?

Here’s yours, I’d say. I lie down on the dirt over your body: You’d close my eyes.

You’d wash my face. There are many ways to love: I can name the last things you

touched. Illumine your face, brave with suffering. All these stones, washed clean

and clean again by tumbling waters. Yes, there are also many ways to die, sword

on neck bone. Body in fire. The death inside of you opened, enfolding your heart,

a bruised flower fruiting. You wanted me to learn how to pray, so I could repair

my shattered spine, the bombed-out cathedral inside of me, the loss of you who

now travels with the winds. I imagine you’ll be homesick for all the things

that will come after you, so I’ll gather them, loaves and fishes, in baskets.

I don’t want to know what lies ahead. At the end or our lives, all paths lead here:

We have nowhere else to go, so we step out of the body and scatter, hoping

we won’t be turned away.

Nicole Rollender’s work has been published in The Adroit JournalAlaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2014, Creative Nonfiction, Ruminate Magazine, PANK, Salt Hill Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal. She’s the winner of the 2012 Princemere Poetry Prize, as well as the 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. Her chapbook Arrangement of Desire was published by Pudding House Publications. She serves as media director for Minerva Rising Literary Magazine and editor of Stitches Magazine.

 

Runner-Up

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"The Hazelnut"

by Claire Wahmanholm

                                                                                     It is all that is made

                                                                                               Julian of Norwich

My being sick came slowly, spun its threads

through the needle holes of my pores,

tapestried my blood with lack, with ailing,

with such thick patterning I thought

my heart would clot beyond untangling,

beyond a blunt cutting of the thread.

After long paths of years that wound around

my bed, dragging bad dreams, I somehow rose

clean as a whistle, as a hound’s tooth, unmarked,

though I could feel burls aching in spots

along my bones, sharp but so little

that I hoped they would fall into nothingness.

But they kept. The hurt had shrunk to the size

of an empty spool, a hazelnut, was small enough

to be housed in it, but hard. The hurt took

my heart’s spot and the hazelnut took root,

filled the empty lanes that had shuttled sickness

and bound them greenly to each other.

The hazelnut was all there was, a tight sea,

a clod of stars, a puff of iron, and all there was

was heavy in the palm of my chest.  

And I felt together, my many was wholed,

the world was an unbroken body, was well,

was something to rest in, was held.

Claire Wahmanholm is a PhD student at the University of Utah, where she co-edits Quarterly West. Her work has most recently been featured in or is forthcoming from, Third Coast, Waxwing, Sugared Water, BODY, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, 32 Poems, and Rattle, and has been featured on Verse Daily. She lives in Salt Lake City.

 

Runner-Up

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"Chattel Is"

by Nicole Otter

     

beingbody

of other body

bodself

hen cow ox pig

egg milk strength meat

just two things

chattel

body   of work

just two things I

hands  wrists  fingers used

arms  shoulders

breathing chest and back I

strong legs   steady feet

sea island cotton from seed to bale

fifty four separate jobs                      body of work I

day I

night I

eyes   ears

breasts feed

womb             wombfactory   I   make more               hands

mouth I

tongue I

voice

Sing he says and I sing

Just two things I can decide:

I can refuse to live;

I can refuse to die.

 

Runner-Up

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"Flour Bluff, Texas"

by Robin Carstensen

Home was near and the night was settled

until the Jack Russell appeared

dead in my headlights in the middle

of Purdue Road, and the eyes of three

mourners who were crouched on the sidewalk

peered into my lights like glowing autumn

leaves. The car rolled over the gravel

into the empty driveway, the porch light

was not on, the house stood in its half primed,

half robin’s egg paint, and the dark blue

sky pressed down. I wasn’t on the freeway,

not out of town, could not go further,

could not move on. The car door opened

and the foot could not lift. The night was

flat, and the mind was a feather, was wind.

Beneath the dark blue sky, one could sit

under the weight and weightlessness,

take a large drink of it, feel it enter cool

and warm in each breath until the body moved

or the body gave in or the body was given,

until the door opened or the door shut

and the hand turned the key, and the car

backed over the gravel, past the dandelion

the lawnmower had missed by the mailbox.

The huddle had disappeared and the terrier

still lay intact on the gray road. He was bigger

up close. He was warm and heavy in my arms.

A boy rode up in a small bicycle. Up close,

he was almost a young man. He had a black

plastic trash bag. “He’s a little heavy,”

I said as he opened it. “She” said the boy.

“Her name is Allie.” “Do you want to say

a little something” came words

from my mouth as we fumbled

and laid her in the bag. “I’ve already said it,”

the boy was clear. The bag hung low

over his bike handle, and he leaned to one side.

“She’s too heavy, let me take her in my car.”

He struggled. “I’ve got her.”  “Are you sure?

It’s no trouble.” He carried her to the car,

lifted her to me, as I shoved over the sprawl

of papers and unopened mail, lay her

on the backseat. I followed him

to his house along the trundle

of brick and pier and beam homes.

She was still warm and heavy in our arms,

beneath his thank you, my take care,

and our bewildered breath—invisible strands

of fur, like seeds from dandelion florets,

their delicate silver chutes floating

in the steady midnight October blue.

Robin Carstensen’s poetry has been featured in Connotation Press, The Southern Humanities Review, the Georgetown Review, Terrain.org: a Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, and many others. She is an assistant professor of English at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where she teaches creative writing.

 

Judge

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Maxine Scates is the author of three books of poetry: Undone (New Issues 2011), Black Loam (Cherry Grove), and Toluca Street (Pittsburgh). She is also co-editor, with David Trinidad, of Holding Our Own: The Selected Poems of Ann Stanford (Copper Canyon). She lives in Eugene, OR.

 

     

 

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