2017 Atlantis Award Finalists

Julio Cesar Villegas

Tonight I burn the final flag of a nation with no name
and with my grandfather’s hands the world shatters

into the ballad of burning caskets
into the portrait of a nameless mother
into the body of an abandoned grandson
into the heritage crucified by a restless noose
into the voice of a street that coils around silence
into the prayers carved into the eyes of a generation
into the pages scattered across the Caribbean islands
into the bones of immigrants crushed under a constitution
into the freedom that never was in a land of chains and rust
into the religion of homeless hearts drowning in the cemeteries
into the skin inherited by ten suns colliding against your heartbeat
into the shadows that fly overhead when the world no longer listens
into the necklace of knives that cuts you whenever you speak too loud
into the coals that crack with laughter when your feet bear no destination
into the laughter of a lover who would hold you inside of crumbling churches
into the corpse of a lover that sings of you in the spot where a church once was
into the midnight that stampedes within you when your breath becomes a hurricane

never forget
the earth still rotates
the wind rattles in the quiet
the bullet never disposed of you
the streets of your childhood still breathe
the book of time will always include your words
the waters become still when you speak like thunder
the hands of the night become broken trying to smother fire
the line between memory and oblivion is drawn by the writer’s hand
the sparrows of smoke that perch within your eyes are prepared to fly away
the forest that collapses in your chest is the kingdom of heaven by another name
never forget that every step and every word in this life is a reincarnation of revolution

tonight I burn the final flag of a nation with no name
and with my grandfather’s hands the world shatters

into a letter written across the rib bone of the 21st century:
remember my name when continents shift within you.

Contributor Notes

Mary Rood

Pull-n-Peel Licorice Twists

We sit on the floor of my apartment.
Your iris stills, brown softens to black.
Eyebrows dominate –
draw a crease in your forehead,
tighten your lips, end to end,
and I see bruises.

I let you hold my hand.
Your composure is limitless,
can hold more than just me.

I took you for granted –
how you gave me strength.
Truth is always taken for granted.
It’s quiet and steady,
overshadowed by pretty things.

When shiny moments burn:
a chord struck from memory,
a lover’s touch,
you are a flame in my mind standing erect,
curling up with me and everyone at once;
Pull-n-peel licorice twists

Everyone’s held up
Everyone reaches up
Molded by the same sticky need.

Contributor Notes

Claire Scott

My Mother’s Face

My mother’s eyes
moth eyes on wings

eyebrows raised feathery

did Sean steal my sandwich
cut in squares

could I read “see the snow”
in Little Bear

did we walk home Sara & I
waiting for the light

my mother leaning in listening

her usual face her yesterday’s face
out cold on the couch

swollen eyes bottled breath
sweat & cigarettes

today’s face her right-now face
soft as she offers sweet tea

a face invented by moth wings against
a dark window

Contributor Notes

James Roach

Group Therapy

She called us survivors,
that word came fervently out of her mouth,
and into our ears,
our hearts not quite knowing how to cope
with the possibility of ever feeling worthy again.
We have each other’s stories stuck in our teeth.
Our sorrows, like campfire smoke,
deep in the threads of our clothes.
With unnatural lighting
and a certain kind of eagerness, we take it all in,
each voice a different wound to tend to.
We are broken but hardly defective,
listening intently to a language
they’ve learned to speak well.
We all watch these fires burn together.
We all watch the falling tears fail to put them out.
And we’re gonna need so much more than saltwater
and so much less than words
to keep the place from burning down.