Origin of the Species
by Ainsley Drew

First Place, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

Our relationship was a terminal cancer patient
Leaving chemo only to be hit by a bus.

I’ve never missed the irony
That fertilizer can be made
Into homemade bombs or flower beds.

Like how your name means healer
And mine means hermit
Burrowed in a meadow, hypogeal in a field.

My mother used to call me by my father’s name, David
Accuse me of breaking up their marriage, no longer a doctor’s wife.
Her brother still calls me by her name, Virginia
Smothers me in soil and plucks her maiden features from my face.

I am the union between a man whose father witnessed the loss of his virginity
And a woman whose father beat her until both tiny legs were left in a brace.

I am a cluster of cells in traffic.
I am the seed that stays mute in the dirt.

It’s impossible to predict next summer’s harvest
When this winter’s freeze has burst all the pipes.

It’s impossible to repack Pandora’s luggage
Once it’s been tilled for explosives by the TSA.

I’m standing in the waiting area at the arrival gate
Though you’ve only traversed the threshold of departures.

Lost lover without a collar, it’s too late.

Once the cat’s let out of the bag
It keeps running
Into oncoming traffic.

Burial
by Tara Westmor

Runner Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

Because we weren’t supposed to, we planted them, in a front yard on Salem Avenue,
the glass, the small please from my sisters, how any child would say please

and hold out their hands. I was always listening because my body was
small and organic, not like glass at all – how my sisters said please

so I gave them the shards of glass I had been hoarding, green and brown
and sharper even than the way they said please, so wide, please.

Because we weren’t supposed to, we used the larger shards as shovels to dig
up dirt and the roots of our maple tree, which were difficult to cut, but the palms

of our hands were not. When the hole was dug, we poured the broken glass into
the ground. I was smaller than my sisters and smaller than the way they said please.

My hands still sting from the cuts and the dirt drying in them. How can I know
when to stop and when will I know the planting is fruitful, how can I understand

what it is that we planted and what survives? Because I am not supposed to,
I do, in a front yard on Salem, I continue to bury it, the small surviving please

of a memory, the braying, whimpering mass of it, too large to cover with dirt.

Reception Study
by Ainsley Drew

Honorable Mention, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize

At times the only way to endure it
is to inhabit another body.

There’s an old legend that says
sex was developed as a way for us to find our souls,
located below a stranger’s sternum,
resting like a horseshoe atop the door frame
of their diaphragm.

I can’t stand to see my face,
throw dark-colored sheets over all of the mirrors
as though I am in perpetual mourning.

In bed I insist on leaving the lights on.
Dissection, vivisection,
spread like a frog and instruments inserted.

Remove what is in me that makes me feel
this way. Look down upon the cupola,
this is my body,
and recognize the symptoms.

The scars are white track marks where I’ve failed to go deep enough to remove it.
Bullet, canine, tooth, tumor, bone splinter, a coin from an amusement park
with an impression of your face upon it.

To cope, I corner the prettiest girl close to my size,
unzip her from cephalon to coccyx.
I put her on like a sweater and roam the streets,
targeting college-age men
who can’t decipher a homonym.
It is easy and less enjoyable than staying home alone and practicing with a scalpel.
It is easy but less enjoyable than dating doctors.

One day I will breathe in another person entirely.
I will feel them diffuse in my lungs like buckshot.
They will enter my bloodstream,
travel to the base of my brain,
and I will finally go blind.