2020 Atlantis Award Runner-Ups

Amanda Dettmann

“This is Not a Phase” -Moon

rosebud has shot me again. hole.
hangs my negative space in sky

like the fuzz of an orange. fizzing mid-
dangle. woodpecker ready. to pucker. pluck

her branches boysenberry. a purple riot. waning.
to wait. but slick starling snatches the same want of glow.

gulp. my eyes glass over glaze. fish hook grazes heart.
heat of grass. eulogies swimming up

standing. still. deer meat on the floor. breasted pine needles
stamped by a single footprint. echo of trees’ scraped knees

like half-slipped wedding bands. all moss. no man.
life depending on the bramble. the boy.

the gashed lap of green. whiskey acorn teeth keeling into
cracked lip of earth. known cavities. gushing. already gone

buzzing. wind sucking its own thumb of silence
like the stinger of a bee’s whizzing bomb

did you see it? go right past your nose?
alzheimer’s stump forgets its own count of rings.

one pinky old. or a hundred halos young.
either way. age a dam. or a dammit. not enough

time. to evaporate in this puddle. to haul light
fired up and flying. crushed organs. but trying.

to come back. another night. as son. of sun.
for i cannot repeat this scattered cycle. my cheeks slivered

when you wake and you mother shake me “to shine on.”
sometimes the swaying cattail wants to choose

the cobweb shawl. sometimes the dead hand stuck in ice
wants to stick there. frostbitten. rooted.

tonight i’d rather we recognize suffering
than think the teeth-marked watermelon

leaning on its bruised side in the warm creek
to be any less lonesome. any less rotten.


Happiness Unrushed

                             after Paisley Rekdal

I have been taught never to envy but now
I cannot help it: You keep
a garden of abundance, fortitude, survival, handpacked
with dirt fallen off your back: do you forgive me
when I stare at your sowing,
longing to hold up consolation, a lost rabbit’s foot, or
pining to snap self-pity into promise, so thirsty for change
two deer shadows in a muddy puddle
reflect one thumping body?
I am your neighbor with the stuttering
fingers, your neighbor with the leaky
love: I slip into your fridge
and leave my sadness there, a half-swimming
salmon to crack your yolks
into mourning. Do you forgive me when I forget
how to garden this grief, unable
to kiss both the yellow stalks and greening tips
in my same fist? I can fill every snakeskin
with soliloquy, plant lone in alone, unafraid to stay.
I can wait longer than happiness in haste. I can wait longer
than your beautiful digging. It is a big thing
to be proud of, unabandoned suffering. Tonight in Maine
there were racoons with ruby cold paws, brown-tail moths
going bald, moose that didn’t blink, and a baby worm
tossed off its leaf by the dirt on your hands: is the worm
insignificant? Should it pawn a new home, habitually,
be an orphan bottle you nick
to name found sea glass? Should I, too, always build?
Your time is running after time, as if all leaves could be caught
before hitting ground.
Why not let this season be its own, the lupine tearing
its Rumphius roots into supper’s keeping?
If my garden had not burned down from ideal planting
I wouldn’t understand your restlessness.
I would have to stay only like the weeds,
beyond perfection, beyond
escape, toes sprouting tangly
in competitive soil, unwanted most by self.
Gardening is eternal exhaustion
without neighbors to shovel with, even me, the stutterer.
I want to show you another garden, Paisley, one no human
has ever touched: Here is the end of ego. Here
is your natural growth. Look how many dead beaks it bends
into baths as they lay there fulfilled.
It teaches the rain how to be rain.


Jacqueline Yang

November Before the Surge

I’m afraid to die. My mom takes my hand and asks
me if I’d still eat the doughnut knowing that one day
one bite will be the last and then it’s gone.
My other hand is empty—I could lift it if I tried,
but I look at my feet and I’m standing on crumbs.
I close my eyes and the sea air tastes like custard
and chocolate and then that’s gone too.

I am told I must lie here in the sand until the world ends,
until the sky turns black like the throat of a frog
and we wrap ourselves in shrouds of mayflies. 
The clouds here look like lily pads, casting shadows
as big as cities until they crater the beach like the face
of the moon. I’m told someone lives there,
someone lonely and huge, and when the waves
reach up I hope he’s reaching too.

Mom lets go. I think she is lucky. Despite her
best efforts, I think she knew too.


instant noodle

the stove makes a noise like a clock when it finally turns on and the fan sounds like water. the first step is to rinse off the cutting board, then the knife, the second step is to start cutting. you boil the water behind you and line up scallions one by one. the blade cuts down until dark green turns to light green turns to white and by the time the steam shakes open the lid it’s too late to change your mind and you must make peace with the choice to eat ramen at midnight. you slide the scallions in. you follow this with stock. if you know you won’t be sleeping any time soon, you might as well have fun. you throw in a pinch of red spice. you sit on the counter and wait for the soup to boil again. you kick your legs. if you tried hard enough you could reach the pot. you could kick it over. the water bubbles. if you tried hard enough you should be able to go to sleep. it boils. you slide down. you spear open the bag. you dunk the noodles in. you have to wait again. you stare at the water. it is blisteringly red. you kick your legs. the stove ticks a noise like a clock. the overhead fan sounds like the ocean it sounds like a white noise machine until dark turns to light turns to white and you add seaweed to the broth. that will make it taste better. if you tried hard enough you should be able to kick the pot over. you might as well have fun.