Francine Witte – Atlantis Award Winner
A piece of the sky breaks off
and falls into your coffee cup.
It makes you wonder how shabby
heaven might be getting and what will
it look like when you get there, if,
in fact, you do. You spoon
the piece from your cup and hold
it between your fingers. It is perfect
and star-shaped and you realize
that the sky was only making room,
the way your mother’s belly once
made room for you. How you were
once the star she pushed out of her
body, light falling through her thighs.
And now it’s your turn, time to reshape
your mouth, learn the language your
mother now speaks, where she doesn’t
quite remember you and says your name
like it’s a miracle or a bathroom fixture.
You know that soon the earth will have
to change, open its skin and scar itself
back around her coffin. And it’s right
now that you realize that it has taken
you your entire life to learn that sometimes
you have to hold your hand across your
coffee cup to keep the sky from falling in.
Angela Penaredondo – Runner-Up
Omen Before Heavy Rain
I haven’t heard the rumble of a monsoon in days
but if steam were to rise from this hot earth
then tumble, now is the time.
Even rubber and pavement wait
for the familiar outpour,
rage in spill to wash clear our sins.
I count his breaths under a vermillion narra.
The tree’s burl, the size of an elephant’s knee bone,
wrinkles for eyes—wraps its tiny face in knots.
Our cheeks brush, one soft, another, full of thistle.
In the thickness of that summer,
the sheen of his fur and paw turns filthy
while a frenzy of flies dart above crusted eyelids.
Once stout, now abandoned
beneath father’s withered truck, a leash
grappled around his throat
I pray black magic does not steal his soul.
As froth dribbles from flews, his pupils
swell bloodshot ready to explode—teeth bared.
He mutates into one of those portside mongrels,
scavenger of bones & charred fishtails,
some mad hound roaming the quadrangles
of shanties. I learned then, death
ruptures like a splinter of lightning.
Cousins scamper naked in sunray,
their necks caked in eucalyptus powder.
We all scatter like fire
ants, our flimsy slippers airborne.
Kallie Falandays – Second Runner-UpWe Are Already Full
Show me the part of you that is hungry,
he said. So I opened my mouth to say, is this
wide enough? Show me the part that is hungry.
So I opened my hands to say, is this hole
enough? Show me the part that is hungry, he said.
So I opened my eyes to say, is this whole
enough? Show me the part of you that is hungry.
So I sat on rocks for hours saying, these are my hands.
Fill them. This is the whole of it. Fill me.
I showed him my stomach. This is the hole in it.
Fill it. This is the soul of it. Fill it.
I showed him the spaces in between my teeth.
See my empty parts? See me empty parts? See the whole
ocean between my hands? See the whole hand before the ocean?
See the ocean? I stayed on the beach for weeks
licking the sand until I had no tongue.