2016 Atlantis Award

M. Wright – Winner

Ancient Future

The night we spent
entwined like Caduceus
in the classic vinyl isle,

lip for an eye for an eye
for your lips intoxicate my
bones into a soaking stupor.

Wrapped round the shop
in watered down bruises our
spines twisted harmonic.

You dressed my eyes
with your homemade ouija
board: an open record

sleeve & plastic mouse
requesting that the noblest
of melodies speak to us.

Show yourself, darling. &
our bodies sank six stories
to erotic elevator jazz.

You pressed every single button
so we had to stop on each floor
snickering–it sounds like if Miles

were spray painted
Which reminds you to write to John

& you pontificate Coltrane
all over my chest
making my legs quiver.

It’s sensational & quite cosmic.
At 3,000 feet below sea
level we find Voyager 1

& write our names in perma-
sharpie along the bow,
then send it back into space again

to document the place we sank
with the goddamn
power of love.

Contributor Notes

Jonathan Travelstead

Public Domain

Fearing a hack, masons buried their recipes
for Roman concrete. Sometimes we earn our knowledge,
more often we’re just lucky, stubbing our toe

on a secret ingredient the volcano hacks at our feet,
another in a field of sunflowers the archaeologist uproots,
discovering an unrecorded highway.

IBM registers patents on carbon nanotubes
found in Japanese katana, scratch awls, & skew chisels
their blacksmiths crafted once the emperor outlawed

forging weapons. The formula for Damascus steel,
too, gone. Forget that. I give you this poem
for free because it was never my secret to keep.

Go on. Take what little Greek fire kindles here.
Nothing is proprietary. I give you Starlite©. Aerogel©.
The one god particle no one ever found, take it.


Crowd Source

Even I know YouTube makes me half as smart as a MENSA reject
when I watch a video called DIY cloud-sEeD Sonoran deSert. Like anything,
it’s simple: Campbell’s soup can, off-the-online-shelf drone,
home-brewed silver iodide.
Toddlers blog from hotspots
in their jogging strollers, consult one another on toppling their parents’
high scores at Angry Birds, then the game called Fold-it, which
Science News says is now viral among that age group.

The game’s purpose? Untangling spaghetti. Only it’s not spaghetti,
but DNA they rebraid like a cadeceus in woven & folded shapes even cancer
won’t recognize. I want to see it, so I click a boy-

blue-striped in his shirt in a white room, interfacing with a phone.
He bites his tongue as he rotates, then pinch-zooms the screen
as if flinging a booger, only expanding weak links where
the body’s code most likely breaks.

Lacking in pain the rest of us spend our lives accruing,
I’m sure he’s unaware of anything but a game’s completed levels,
achievements as he folds proteins
failing their part of the relationship
with the ailing organ.

I see how compassion can sometimes be a moot thing
as he continues folding the coded Dear John letters like a master origamist
so the sad part of the message lies tucked along the creases.

I imagine this, representative of many:
On every phone a tile for Cure, an icon which can be drug & dropped
on the outlined figure of a generic John or Jane, spliced in
where it alights with a chime, & our mothers live
even a gasp longer.

Contributor Notes

June Blumenson

Ode to a Glacier

For Aialik Glacier, Alaska

It isn’t the glitter or your towering ice
cap that impresses me. It’s your angry
sound of exploding chunks
of ice-face that calve
into the sea and break up like digital
pixels on a national geographic
against the human footprint
that exhales like a pod of whales belching
mists of putrid breath into the air,
racing against time and gravity.

You must wonder why humans act like this–
as if it’s our nature
to be just one more disaster
that seethes below
the surface, like super volcanoes
or shifting fault lines, spinning tectonic
plates on the tips of our fingers,
like circus jugglers
on a Monday when the stage is dark.

Contributor Notes

JP Allen

Love Song with Lag

We hold Saturday     video     interactions.
We pine     via bright     cables.
(We choose     to live     apart.)

Tilted webcams     mis-target     desire.
I Skype     into your     collarbone.
Corruption     halos you     in artifacts.

Where do you look     when you seem     to see me?
At recipes?     Massacres?     Kittens? Erotica?
At yourself     in the picture-     in-picture?

Far     approximation is     cozy.
My milky     marble     eyeballs.
Your subtly     wooden     lips.
Our pure     and unconvincing     polygons.

 Contributor Notes

Brett Salsbury

This Hue Only Exists Here

The Robin egg fell to the concrete
but didn’t break. I held it. I eventually broke it but I was young, you see,
so let me use that excuse. All the eggs that have been. Humpty Dumpty.
Breakfast. The bird with a cat call: that chattering.
Every little miracle. A portion of this narrative hides
toward the back of the plate, underneath the avocado.

Giant Tortoises bury their eggs on the beach. You know this story:
you build a sandcastle. But even better is that moment on the sunset, where look
how big it is: the sun doesn’t seem as far away as it is.
It isn’t. The turtles hatch. Your memory fades into those primordial waves.
Most of the turtles won’t make it.

You could think of your own life in stages. Waves. Pre- and post-Robin egg.
It was blue. Poems hopefully last a little longer,
but it’s always back to how it is you feel:
when you met him. When you became a together.
When you learned you could italicize.

Delete your photos. The egg stands still.
You remain in its possession. The sun is even closer now.
None of this is yours. How very long
you’ve been here. It isn’t that long
and you don’t have much time left.

Contributor Notes

Erin Armstrong

A Cartographer

The poet grabs my hand and twirls me
to the side of his voodoo blue Cruiser.
His hands cusp my lower back
and my breath quickens;
it is easy to be naked yet clothed as the poet
drinks in my every scent.
I am the voyeur to our embrace;
the interpreter, the ignorant reader.
He removes the obstacles of hair
and space between us; I am witness
to the spectacle of the parking lot:
mid-afternoon and cars populate
the gritty pavement. Where I stand,
I can see the patrons of the tavern, and smell
the beer-soaked carpet, yet
the poet pulls me to him. His nose
caresses my skin; he transforms from poet
to cartographer, exploring the space
from collarbone to chin.
He marks each part of my flesh
as a territory, a place to note,
explore, discover, my untouched
land awakens; I can feel the foreigner’s
curiosity, longing to understand the length
of an ocotillo branch or the smell of rain
rising from the creosote bush before
the monsoon clouds assemble;
I can feel him divulging my places;
the ones I want locked away from
the explorers, the eccentrics, the orators of time.
I grasp for a blindfold, a way back to the darkness
but my backside arches into his palms, and I know
I am seen.
Together we take our trip to the bottom
of the Earth like Shackleton and his men,
not one of us will return; we are poets
locked in cages; observers
of our own embrace.

Contributor Notes

Lisa Zou

Blind Mammal(s)

Scientists in Honolulu have uncovered
a primeval tortoise long alleged as extinct.

The blessed creature stumbled out of my sink
in the company of toothpaste patches

and last Wednesday’s soap suds but
now this no-eyed sea resident with three fins

is on a trip to the lab in Maui, traveling on a boat
rather than below it. This morning, the newspaper

announced that he is not native; how many miles away
from his motherland we clearly cannot fathom.

Contributor Notes

Gail Waldstein

the way you gave me
Jack Gilbert

the way wind nickers

and the coyote cavorts
at dawn    hovers over prey

paws down       in a pose of prayer
the way the heart      opens and

dislocates       a snake’s jaw
unhinged hunger

there’s some small thing
insatiable and cunning

in love
ravenous      to know, to be

savage       before control    like

a    prairie church

Contributor Notes