Lisa Summe – Atlantis Award Winner
It’s like this: here is this world
and you are over there to some degree,
maybe in another world or maybe in this one.
Right now: you’re just across the bridge
but the bridge fell down into the river
and the boats are all on fire
despite all that water. Or you’re just across
the country but the airplanes are sad
and have broken hearts. Consequently,
the pilots are also sad and have broken hearts
and they crash the airplanes on purpose
but with no passengers beyond themselves.
So don’t worry, no one is about to die over this.
This is about them: those sad sad pilots.
To say this is about those pilots is to say
this is about you, the you who is the pilot
and knows how to fly the airplane,
though you know nothing much about flying
beyond what we’re doing in this hotel room.
To say this is about you the pilot
is to say that it is easy for me to sneak
on the airplane, for me to want,
to become your secret passenger
so when you crash the airplane on purpose,
thinking you are hurting no one but yourself,
you might actually be hurting me,
but see no one will get hurt. I will save you
right away because you don’t know about me
here on the airplane, or my parachute,
which seems big enough tonight to save this world.
Sunni Wilkinson – Runner-up
Fall in a Triptych
The leaves’ infectious lecture about dying
is spreading wild across town.
On my morning run leaves meddle in the garbage of the gutter,
the metal flash of a wrapper
next to their sighs,
and in between their papery skins the near answers
we hear. What if what I fear
never leaves me? At three, my son loves dinosaurs
until we visit the museum. Panic –
and his hands are frantic birds
tearing at our shirts.
We love something to be afraid of. Fear carves
our limits and we stroke them
in the dark hull of ourselves,
letting our fingers drift and drift
over their terrible edges,
spelling it out: I want to live and I’m desperate to die.
So this is the tale I tell my son.
Isaac lived with his father and mother
near a place called Mount Moriah, and here he climbed
as if he were climbing the world
and loved it, for his name meant laughing. He was the breath
in his mother’s song, the lifting of his father’s
footstep. He was beloved. And one day his father
lifted him skyward
and lay him on an altar.
The world was too big above him.
He saw he could not be a bird
sailing its soft body into the light every morning.
The ground beneath him would not give.
He saw the worm, before it entered the bird,
writhing. His father’s hands shook
and lingered over his body,
and the angel showed up in the nick of time.
Only the ram entered the darkness
alone. His body made a bright fire.
On the radio
the current conversation is money and blood.
In the maple grove it is just blood
but along the hill the aspen are rattling their gold coins
ironically. They could be laughing.
In the growing cold, men crave the bodies
of their wives who crave
the bodies of their children: light, almost feathered,
smelling faintly of birth.
I fold myself around my son
like a wing or the glance of a knife.
High up, in the growing dark
tiny lights teach us how to burn,
how to outlive ourselves.
Cindy St. Onge – Second Runner-Up
It’s a machine, life.
Oily, cold, impersonal.
There’s no paternal affection,
no angelic rescuer, no divine plan.
Just a black engine, a tireless generator
of carbon, hydrogen and other gaseous babies.
Age after age, we appear on its assembly line
not knowing how we got here,
never seeing the strange animal
that bore us into existence.
Somewhere in the onyx plenum
the primal motor growls over enslaved
wheels that have churned perpetual spirals
since who knows when.
The grand axle revolves forever,
unimpressed by its prolific issue.
Surely, if the old turbine could imagine eternity
and consider its tiresome chore, it would go mad.
But it imagines nothing.
So on it goes, black, steaming, yoked
to the momentum of the ages, siring galaxies,
understanding none of it.
The poor beast cannot even pray for its own death.
Jonathan Travelstead – Finalist
Captain America. Ali Al Saleem Airbase, Kuwait
Clanging fills the fire department gym
as Captain Lazzari hoists the forty-five pound plates in pairs
onto the squat rack. Sweat beads his shaved, oiled head.
With each deep-seated repetition Lazzari chuffs at the air,
lets loose from his bowels a sonorous groan,
lunges upward, then sloughs his load onto the squat rack’s
curved metal dowels he bends further with each slam of weight
against them. Airmen watch his poses between sets
like speculators admiring a stud bull before he goes to auction,
or Michelangelo’s David standing contrapposto.
Wrists together, pronate, Lazzari’s right leg
jutted forward gives us a great view of the lineation
between muscle and brute will. Of Captain America
tattooed on his upper thigh- the hero’s blue arm waving a charge
of green-fatigued GI’s toward a face
flayed to the red skull of his comic book enemy.
When the PA clicks on and the tones drop
he is balls-deep to the floor beneath four hundred pounds.
The dispatcher’s voice crackles through the gymn.
A Humvee burns in a dune just off-base.
He pistons up, shedding the useless weight of steel,
and right there yanks his silver bunker pants over an erection
rising in them like a clenched fist,
and burls outside where he clambers up, and onto the pumper.
En route towards the scene, base dispatch radios
the burning Humvee is cleared of soldiers,
and so they arrive to harmless slag- blown struts.
Riveted wheels bowed beneath a tanned, broke-axled hulk.
Nothing to save. All Along the Watchtower
bleats from the cd player jerry-rigged to the battery
through a hole in the firewall,
the lyrics insisting there is no reason to get excited.
Still, Lazzari grabs a red hose line, and blitzes
into the oily smoke of unidentified materials as if his skin
is galvanized, his lungs resistent as nomex.
Fifty caliber rounds firecracker off at the humvee’s turret
and still he enters, swinging the hose-
charged, lithified with water at triple-digit pressure-
nozzle hoisted in bare hands above his gleaming skull.
Gail Waldstein – Finalist
once there was a girl who loved
pollywogs little black ones slimy
green water beside the creek
dank puddles creatures soft
and slippery as the inside
of her mouth her father showed her
made her touch watch them grow
green splotched skin then bones
little legs fins and tails shrank
she stroked them firming
something in that rapture
of nature the stillness and her Dad
not teasing or beating or invading
simply see, he too in awe
when she grew up she loved biology
became a doctor learned to try
everything new with her first
husband in the end, and there was
one with each man she
sampled garlic snails frog-legs
loved earth-flavors the slight grit
watery texture travel and love-making
no longer green she wonders if change is
still possible crinkled adult