2018 Atlantis Award Poems

Jennifer L. Hollis

One Way to Disappear
 
If you are failing yourself don’t bring a camera. Do not describe the elaborate maze of compromise. The thinking in your center knows what’s true, but you wrap it tight like meat scraps in a casing. No one ever believes what the fine esophagus has to say.

In the trolley car, an EMT said, “People freeze in emergencies. That’s how they get killed on train tracks. The trick is to practice until your body moves without you.”  The nuns were right to implore us to be more perfect. Blind repetition is our only hope.

You don’t need a fortune cookie to tell you what you are. Faith is one or the other: Mine. Not mine. What is yours lifts off the page like a marquee. It sails unhindered through the maddening rocks. What is not yours chokes like salty bread on the tongue.

Out of the cage, the body properly clears its throat. In spite of the heat and the stairs, the breeze is cool, fanning you like a prince. The body is a mouse with life-saving skills. The body knows just what to do. It has moved without you its whole life long.

Making a mistake is an open sore but, mercifully, not a tattoo. Bandage it up and new skin will grow like a weed. Set your watch in the customs line. Change the money and get on the plane. Your debts have been paid. They will not be mentioned again.

Contributor Notes

N.L. Pillman

Strawberry Moon

After the fight, I went onto the deck
to look at the strawberry moon.
You read your book, readying yourself
to write your book, and sucked

on the vape pen. I hadn’t been high
in a month, scared of the paranoia and trying
to write more, and I hadn’t thought about space
in years—since that summer of losing

my religion. I tried hard that night, staring
at the moon. It wasn’t red, the “strawberry”
a throwback from the Algonquians, who knew the wild
berries ripened after the June full moon.

I wanted so badly that night to lose
myself in the bigness of things,
to highlight the small with the large,
but the cat kept meowing at the door,

yet didn’t want out, and my phone
burned in my pocket—a news story here,
a tweet there, a two-day-late text
—and you, I knew, were

toking and reading and readying
yourself for the next stage in your life,
while all I could do was fail
to look up and focus.

Contributor Notes

Jari Chevalier

Mother

Anguilla: moist, hot, and cheap
in summer. We had nothing

to say to each other. People waved
like we were king and queen.
The biggest, blackest hog we’d ever seen
twitched its hide and snorted in the maggot

mud. Kindergarten: hours to go, gray wind ticking
at the plate-glass window, dowdy monitor

pounding on an upright with broken keys, nonsense
songs, saltines, paper cups of false juice.

And who would come at noon but mommy
with her orange mouth,

Jackie Kennedy hair,
patent purse, and airs from magazines.

We wanted a beach with no one,
crossed the island by moped.

A reef of cloud held back the sun;
ashen fronds compressed underfoot.

You’ve seen it, I presume,
even if only on screen, a cove

once pristine,
on the far side of an island,

thickly amassed with wash-up;
plastic drek, obligatory rubber boot,

one-armed brown baby doll,
face and sex erased.
 

Vacation

An iguana tanks
into mosaic shade
on an island hill; wind
swizzles through grasses
& peepers cheep up in trees
come dusk. I imagine
our ever-shared
circle of fusion
elevate, sizzling,
from that turquoise
horizon, exciting
all the finches with lyrics
of light; rooster on
a broken wall, clarion,
primordial. Sea
mists are in-breaths
of pelican & palm,
sand is broken
shark teeth, coral,
bone, shell, stone; digested
plants morph to collagen,
muscle, cartilage; fire
makes lye & lathers. We
eat & breathe the dead.
Even if nothing now
living survives, sudden
blue voltage and lava
have it within them
to begin again.

 

Contributor Notes

Emily K. Michael

I Begin to Understand Jo March

I wanted her wildness —
tramp of russet boots, hair bundled
she defied all ornaments.
I wanted energy to overturn expectations.

Now all my sisters are mothers
and plump little palms tap at my door,
make auntie nonsense of my name.
I miss the sisterhood gone.

I ache in that self conscious corner
of my heart, where other joys crowd —
Hope, reckless and springy underfoot,
shoulders old beliefs aside. I recognize
the step of a returning friend.

I tune my ears to his laugh at the gate
and lean against him as we cross the green ground.


 
Contributor Notes

Amber Thompson

Hesitation
 
I’ve been running green lights
my whole life

like that
strappy prom dress
criss-crossing over tanned
shoulders
then orange like
her best friend;
black backgrounds creasing over
volumes of ruffles
and children guessing which one
they’ll be

But I’ve never quite seen
red
like that cherry
like that followed by
numb-white
like that followed by
aquamarine release
of a popsicle
dripping in the middle
of the intersection.

Contributor Notes