2019 Atlantis Award Finalists

Elizabeth Sparks

What to do when life gives you a butcher

                              ~ line from the book “The Sweetest Fruits” by Monique Truong

burn all knives sending them to the universe.

go to the priest who says mass
then masturbates with Jesus on his tongue.

say prayers in every language lest you
anger unknown gods.

lick the salt from the oceans and give
it to the eyes of the dead.

steal the clouds from the sky,
pour them on the wounds of the earth.

find the children who are born but
cannot find a life.

revel in sun and rain but not the
mean-ness of wind.

go to the ends of the earth
to fly with the birds.

step over all rocks and
capture yourself.


Cassandra Rockwood-Ghanem


Who were you before ships
became your shoes? Now you sway

on mesozoic legs wondering why
there’s no stability inside. I heard you pierced

ears with knives and severed free-thinking
on every continent before.

Here you find dissolution sung by virgins and bird-god
voices, often dressed like men to make you listen.

When you arrived, you raised a flag
ensigned with the last heart you ate

just to let us know you were in the harbor.
Next you make a crown that resembles it

and tell everyone to stay put for a body count.
You say, Drink and be merry! offering barrel-aged tears

from a lost pleasure shore, calling casualties saviors,
only so long as their names serve as snares.

When the last remaining bridges have been burned
and the rivers run dry, then you’ll beg:

But wait, see how beautiful your heart would look on a stick?
You could be the next flag stake on my territory of ladders!

Originally Published in The Write Launch

What to Look For

After winter, we would walk on the spongy fields
of our childhood in snow boots, water coming up murky

around blue soles. You’d pull a jackknife from your
shirt pocket and shave the bark, shallow then deep,

revealing a chartreuse layer against strident grays. The
tart pepper of life scent would rise to my nose.

You’d say, We’re at that stage where we can handle
a damp green wound, remember, leaves will furl open

in spring (and I should know this by now). As you spoke,
I’d take a willowy branch and wring it in opposing circles

until the shiny skin peeled up, pulp fracturing outward
like a paper lantern, sap coruscating brightly within.

This is how we would have prepared to always be holding
on a bit longer, awaiting the life that has yet to come forth.

Originally Published in The Normal School


Claire Scott


Wind-crackling rage keeps me alive
rides me like a banshee, spurs digging
            spurs of fury from your whistling fists
            and the buckle end of a belt
the end of a belt that left bruises and learned me to hate
surviving on nothing but bitterness and booze
            bitterness and booze until the letter you left
            said your father beat you with fresh cut cane
beat you with fresh cane you so you beat me
you said unable to undo the stone-stories of the past
            the past’s stone-stones dragged to your grave
            guilt that never let go, laying siege, leaching life
guilt that will never let go, razor words dulled
in stunned silence, crackling rage deflated