Little World / After a Series of Rejections
by Sawnie Morris

First Place, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

You      can safely e merge        to sit   with magenta   tulips   ,
orange day    lilies    shouting

surprise(!)    in their inaudible – to – humans –  language.  . ..   Dandelions make
punctuation    marks   in short   isomorphic    sentences of

manna and buffalo grass.     You   are struck
by the    watery    sounds       grackles    make.   It’s fabulous ,

and they are forgetful                of  you ,    which is also            grand,    gathered
as they are    in the crabapple     and hopping in   miniature

crescendos   ~ ^ ~ ~ ^   they’ve made      a discovery,   these   branches     this
bark : new     country,       paradise,     the real

estate     they have    longed     for .      How far out
on a limb are you willing to go? ,  ,     perched

on     the radical          reaches     of
nerve      nebulae . … .       Into the blue  

beyond      .  . …   .
a less  bird-like    sotto voice   chimes : “that’s your grandmother’s

language”     &       “ it’s   getting     hot”   – –
Y ou move   beneath

the   crabapple,       grackles
scatter.   In the halo of        sentence-diagrams

there’s a buzzing       Gertrude
vibrated    along   with.     You watch    a bumble bee     go     at it

with a blossom,   and a     smaller       black     drone     hovers :
amateur   observing a    pro.   The speaker

phone       makes an ugly   sound •     from inside
the house ,  as though    calling for   a

doctor.   The message     says
not   to     leave   a          message     ,,   someone

ornery    or desperate  or    oblivious   does so
anyway.   Your   beloved is

in the    painting   studio     laughing   at the    astrological
forecast     that has    interrupted the    jazz

show.  Briefly,
s/he hammers  a     board .   When you first crept   out

the door  you were     startled
by      branches    of the lilac   ,   how exactly

they  were         capillaries craning   their angular
snake-like     necks   , forest     explosions !     (radiant

ends ).    This     has   everything       to do    with
the limb-
ic    system ,       your  thin   malachite     t-shirt

a  pond –
w/     gold   sparkle ,     which   floats    , ,

and the emerald   ink      you write  in     every
spring  b/c you have   a need  to

talk to   yourself      in   color  after     the spanipelagic   wash
of   winter.    The black dog    drinks

from the bird’s   oval   basin     & lies down       covered
in     the  cadmium       heat of the nearest

star . Light     is    amniotic   , we swim ..       More banging
sparks   up   static  in      the studio.        You have   only

so much   sand   left       in   the eternity
symbol   ,       how are you      going to
count  it ?

( The   dog   rolls   on his    back
r olls   back     on his    side

snorts     . )       The virgin constellation    sits at a  tilt  ,
rock-nested.   She’s  seen     more  gracious

rotations  ,    but       remains
in the prayerful      position.   On the other side  of

dishevelment ,       stone and latilla       steps    hide
the insignia     of   crab          beneath

sage.       It isn’t that      you
are crabby    ,  it’s that  your    efforts  are       beginning to

resemble    a      gust       hitting      a    cluster
of densely packed particles.         Perhaps  your

elements are     perplexed . Wind
is      ephemeral.

The    dog           leaves   the   rays
in   favor   of   a      gray

the    crabapple             casts
,, (  The dog  ,     at least     , thinks

you might  have       something to     offer. )  The grackles
have decided      you are a non-
threat,   so move in      as   close

as      the nearest       apple  .
Chuck chuck  chuck ,    the shiny     crow     says,

Pheew.   Perfectly normal             bees
descend     to       lower   branches ,     close to your

hat, which is
human.   Nature          adores you ,

what more   can you want ?
The         unknowable           answers

w/ last night’s   dream :   B.H.     exhorts   ‘A.S.   to   WRITE !

A   Klee-like         twig-drawing   appears :       rectangular dwelling
containing a flower-in-a-pot, a stick-tree ,   and a stick-person

etched     in the skin of
an   upper   arm   ,

a     shot in the   dark

( like the doctor gives ) of the lyric :
( according to Donne ) :

a     little     world
made                                                                  cunningly   .”

 

And so, it is.

Carol Amber
by Kate Kingston

Runner Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

Bacteria breeds in the potato bin, white
spores on the windowsill. The stove
top is lined with cold cuts, half-eaten
yogurt. Tea bags line her sink, Sweet Flag,
Burdock, Bitterroot. Her milk is outdated,
the salami petrified. Mice coagulate
at the periphery of crackers
and chips. I offer to clean
but she says, no, blocks the refrigerator
as if I am about to steal
her oranges. She worries I might
spill the milk, break the eggs.
The pantry smells like dog urine,
her own hair a disarray of tanagers.

The supermarket calls to her like a siren.
She can’t refuse its colored cans,
its cool freezer breath, stacks of lemons,
limes, apples, grapefruits, oranges,
its tussle of bananas and string beans.
She worships its bakery, sprinkled
donuts and caraway rye—buys more,
shops every day, sometimes twice.
She is in her element, pushing
the wheeled cart like an old friend,
focusing on the grocery list
tattooed to memory—aged cheddar
in case her son visits, Cheerios
for her grandson, goat’s milk
for her daughter, ice cream
and steak in case the neighbor
stops over, hungry.

Her dog carouses the yard with bristled
neck fur. Pine needles shed onto shingles
and an eave hangs loose like a strand
of hair escaping the barrette. The dock reins-in
boats—paddle, pontoon, kayak, canoe—
tethered like patient horses,
their marshy pasture a lily pad haven
full of turtle breath, frog dynamics, how wetlands
too harbors words—oasis, cattail, snake.

She pours us tea, one that claims
to detoxify, to soothe the throat. Honey
dissolves in the agitated swirl
of our spoons. I mention a home,
as if it’s a nesting word, as if she’s a porcelain
doll and I’m placing her in the doll house.
I promise she can take her dog
and her array of crackers. When I tell her
she can return in the spring,
the word Bitterroot sticks in my throat.

Terrorists
by Donald Levering

Runner Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

The neighbor kid behind me

in line, twitching,

with black widow bites down his arms,

 

about to implode

into obituary.

Or the one in the vacant lot

 

packing powder in a pipe

to blow himself away

in a blizzard of dirty pigeons.

 

There’s the guy on the bus

with inflammable breath,

nudging me.

 

God don’t let that be

my bombshell daughter naked

in a sleeping bag on a public bench

 

with gaps in her teeth, picking at scabs.

I say to myself

behavior isn’t contagious,

 

the spray from that vomiting vagrant

can’t infect me with DTs.

But that youth who was caught

 

letting himself into my home

to stash contraband

and steal heirlooms—

 

please tell me he’s not

my tunnel-eyed son,

quick with excuses,

 

plotting a fix.