Yes, it's that time of year again! And I'm glad my part in it is done. It's always a hard call. Read them and see for yourself. The unbound CONTENT Pushcart Prize 2012 nominees are:
Apples to Oranges (from At Age Twenty by Maxwell Baumbach)
it is said
that when two things
cannot be compared
a case of apples to oranges exists
but those things can be compared
they are both fruits
and like humans
they have skin
and humans like trees
can be cut down
and trees like flowers
can bend in the wind
and flowers like hummingbirds
can astonish with their beauty
and the hummingbird sings
the way all the earth does
in harmonious unison
Painting Czeslawa Kwoka (from Painting Czeslawa Kwoka by Theresa Senato Edwards)
In Brasse’s black and white photos,
you are a young girl with a round face
dropped into a flat, grey world,
26947 sewn on a striped wardrobe,
naked beneath these numbers.
What does color bring to you?
In color you move through our minds.
In color you are a movie star: Mia Farrow—
slightly protruding upper lip, swollen bottom
forms a dense shadow to your chin.
In color you are a young woman
bleeding from within: pale skin
filters red to pink. This is the
girl you are at Auschwitz, Czeslawa.
You are not a criminal.
Your full color portrait
forces our reaction—
your hair is the warmest
fall in a dead winter, amber
background sparks the short, matted
bristles: adolescent questions
quickly extinguished when a scarf adds
texture, diagonal patterns, another
look of a 14-year-old prisoner.
In color you transform: we can
touch your swollen mouth, feel the
voice beneath the left side of your face,
where greys mix with pinks,
a rash of illness.
The contrast holds us.
In a soft color profile,
above and slightly right
of 26947, we see a tear
from your right eye spilling down,
just underneath skin transparent,
thin from a bleak setting.
We follow the contour of your
smeared mouth, slightly opened,
trace from lower lip to the
bottom of your chin:
this part of pinkish-grey flesh
appears as number 7.
This is not intentional.
In color we feel the
blacks of uniformity,
harsh marks of suffering
blacken the scratched
shadows below your nostrils.
The black slit above your
grey lower lip sucks us
empty—your eyes, black
oval platters reflecting
SS soldiers and worse
within deep, grey carvings.
Black is blacker in color.
Painted close-up: a bright
yellow backdrop brightens
the scarf’s pattern, your hair
hidden in black and white
becomes strands of sunlight,
movement on still life.
Yellows warm your cheeks,
your forehead clear of dirt,
yellows remove the dark patch
from the tip of your nose we see
in each of Brasse’s photographs.
Yellows plunge orange,
settle on the center left of your chest.
You can breathe them in.
XVII (from A Strange Frenzy by Dom Gabrielli)
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
i am the one in the series
whom in you stays
finding the path to the chests in your soul
i am the one who came last
who picked the fruit without hands
and drank the juice with my heart
i am the luck which i refused to lose
all the anger and the pain has sense for you
for my silence
for all the empty bottles of poor wine
which sojourned but could not stay
The Feast of St. Catherine (from Saltian by Alice Shapiro)
In our vacant lot the carnival
burst into town each June
like a Verdi opera.
Pink gossamer to eat
mud-stomped grass beneath our feet
a shrill Italian song
emanating over children’s jeers
the aim to win, to beat old carnys’
sleights against all odds.
And the gambler’s vice begins.
Day fades, lanterns light, a crowd wanders
circling tent-booths lined with wooden ducks
dead to barrels aimed to kill.
And the gun for sport dawns.
We spin around on giant teacups
dizzy from the ride
take note of a faint, free mind
And reach for sweet, indulgent wine.
At dusk, painted horses gallop on everlasting turns
help us grab the golden ring
and if our sense is strong enough
A holy promise sings.
Hurricane Season (from The Pomegranate Papers by Cassie Premo Steele)
Facing southeast, I wait for the hurricane,
feel the purple wind on my cheeks,
know that nothing will be the same.
I have ridden the air on an eastern rug,
woven with blood and memory,
and the colors still cling to my skin.
I am not afraid of the seasons,
not the mountains or rivers or night.
I am one desert pink flower in bloom.
And when my summer is over,
I will return to the earth with gratitude,
lay my petals upon her damp breast,
and know that nothing is ever the same.
I have lived, bloomed, given birth,
died, all in my own name, all in my name.
No Place to Go (from Elegy by Raphaela Willington)
April 18, 2001
No Place to Go
Lost in the wilderness
of my parents’ house,
the bounce of a branch of hemlock,
If you like these poems and you haven't bought any of these books yet, remember that every copy sold sends royalty money to the writers and artists whose work we now celebrate. Browse our bookshelf here
. Please join me in congratulating the writers.
To see the vox poetica nominees, please click here