2021 Atlantis Award Finalists

Pamela Wax

Relativity

My grandmother measured us in pencil
on the doorjamb next to the basement,
watching us grow millimeters or whole

inches between visits, the initials
of her grandchildren marked beside each
dash, so we might see what aging

looked like from above and below,
while time was measured by birthday cakes
my mother would fashion into Bambi

or Micky, a child’s latest obsession
made manifest in chocolate icing.
I grew wider and thinner, another

spatial calculus, oscillating back
and forth, depending on the black holes
or gravity’s tugs on my adolescent heart.

In that dimension, time has wrought me
wiser and softer, kinder and lighter—
immeasurable on any objective scale,

but corroborated anecdotally by soul
friends who’ve known me
through both time and space.

If my grandmother were to measure me now
in pencil by that door, she would
notice me shrinking each visit, bones

collapsing into themselves, gravity
condensing the years into laugh lines,
the vastness into still waters.

Contributors

Lee Landau

Echo from the Future

Snowbound winter
threatens both roads, fear
of what snow and ice
can do, where ice is the trajectory
speeding you up…
The past, a galloping horse, heedless
arrives at my door, races
ahead. But child,
you are my galloping horse
frozen to the past, how
to say farewell
over and over, as seasons change
against all this growth, this hoeing
choke weed back bent to the soil.

Notice the peonies now
in a bottle, the guests, and you
adorned with white
roses selected for the death
of a child whose casket
remains closed, while swallows
crowd the gabled roof, their song
a fulsome noise
in tandem–– your name
passing through these many
mouths.

Contributors

Deborah Doolitte

Red:  Not a Hot Love Story

Most blood stains rinse out
eventually. 
Fade with bad memories
into the nether
regions of the brain.
Slipping from her grip
like all those poker
chips he flipped across
the table at her. 
Once claret was not
a color, but a wine
they clinked their glasses
to, little tinkles,
crystalline sprinkles,
those wine-dark droplets
of red, shattered and
spattered, which then bled
into the linen.
Now, she hides behind
her hippy-dippy
rose-colored glasses
and sighs full of ohs,
ahs, and alases.

Love:  A Blue Story

Always involves more
than two shades of blue,
whistled, whispered where
the rivers run through
green hills, silvery
refrains; and still which
knee to use and which
garden spot to choose.
Before winter’s thaw,
he saw all that crawl
before him without
any hint or clue
of assurances
or when to go.  These,
too, blew through him
the way he walked through
empty rooms, dust-filled,
gloomy, devoid of
sunlight and in tunes
he could not have sung.