2021 Bermuda Triangle Finalists

Ojo Taiye

Dear Self: Why Not Stay

again, what do i know about staying? what metaphor can i use to describe this bumper sticker narrative hanging from my mouth—how nothing ever changes— not the scenery or the streets ransacked by harmattan like a warning. how easily the ritual of a season becomes us: winter opens & opens— &i’m still trying to figure out if i really want to be alive. forgive me this struggle of hope. for as much as i want to be happy, it is there i lose. i cannot see beyond it. of all my regrets, this is the worst— & when the tides are surging home, my very name becomes a vanishing flower. even now— i name my fears—late affection & the memory of it is a bird itself shuddering. tender is the hard work of doubt— believe me. tired & thirsty, another word for my hands sandwiching little shards in the snow. there is something so precious about the fracture of acacias. so, it’s no wonder i still find myself looking to blue throated robins for solace. it ends how it begins: i didn’t become the man i imagined—i brought what i had learned of birds & forgiveness to my daily life & it failed me. what’s left behind is the realities of a bewildering kinship of language & prayer. maybe i’m a poem unhappy to be born — just what is true & true. every night i wake & fall between the place of childhood & a constellation of god’s period showing us our teeth.


Kate Northrop


                                    (at night)

Then I saw the moon’d jacked open the sky
and burned the outside world: it was all there
surfacing, like an emptied swimming pool

I saw the donut shop on Delaware Ave
looking dropped off in the rain, and the lights
inside blazing: drawn along by horses, awake

When five years opened out of hand: my/my sister
fell into a yard.  Fuck was that? someone said, the snails
in the grass shining wildly, clear to the eye

Now I see when the Frog Prince sees the pink
forehead rising over the lip of the well, it appears
like a gorgeous, green exit sign


Dear M, things still slippery I can report, at the ends of
the earth, warm and indirect


Susan Muth

Good Daughter

A stranger in my mother’s clothes,
you terrify. Pungent grapes line your lips
the way lipstick once did, and beneath
my childhood quilt you once traced my palm
in wide loops, singing a tune I can no longer place.

And do you remember my face
when I pulled you out of the overflowing bath,
like any good daughter would?
Do you remember your lip quivering claim—
I just fell asleep as I wrapped the towel
around your torso like you used to wrap me up,
warm and safe, after a dip in the cold community pool?

I lifted you out of the bath like I’ve lifted my lovers
up from whatever drunken stupor they embraced,
no matter how many times they begged me to stay back,
that their weights would drown me too.
And with this, I’ve become you—a good daughter,

good sister, good friend, good lover, good caretaker,
good mother, good mother, good mother.

Second Attempt

The image pleases me enough : to slip from the body’s p>
tight container and into some luminous womb, gliding there 
without effort till the distant shapes glow brighter and more familiar, 
till all your beloveds hover before you, their lit arms held out in welcome.
–Mary Karr

I used to envision my future husband—
tall, muscular, sweet minded. His qualities
matched mine to a tee, but my mother
made sure to remind me of her similar dreams
when she was my age, and look who I married.
The only tees he possessed were those he staked
into the country club grounds, and his 5’5 frame
swung his driver to the heavens where my mother’s
dreams remain unrealized.

Lately, I’ve been having a recurring dream
of a swollen stomach stretching my skin taut.
With no knowledge of whose fetus grows inside me,
I wait alone in a hospital bed with my parents arguing
outside in the hall, and the nine months pass
within seconds. The want of a husband here
only aligns with my backbreaking contractions,
and as my eyes strain against a flickering overhead light
I pray for this birth to be my own.