Phantom Limb

Fran Baird

HONORABLE MENTION – THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS
NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY

Phantom Limb

by Fran Baird

Fran Baird

I trash the bird feeder,

scatter the seeds away from the house.

As the exterminator predicted,

the scratching in the crawl space goes away.

The birds return for days,

stare up into the air, fly around

the empty space like lost migrants,

then disappear and don’t return.

My son calls from his chaos.

I am drawn once again

to hover around his sadness,

as if I still could care.

This time, when I return home,

something in me is missing.

 


Fran Baird was born in North Philly, the youngest of 12 children. He has studied in workshop with poets David Ignatow, Cathy Smith Bowers, John Drury, Jamey Dunham; and currently with Leonard Gontarek. His poem “Neshaminy” published in the Schuylkill Valley Journal in 2009 was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His first chapbook, Painting With My Father, has been published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. Dr. Baird conducts a poetry workshop with long term incarcerated men at Phoenix Prison (formerly Graterford) as part of the Prison Literacy Project of Pennsylvania. Ten poems from five poets from this workshop were published in the Fall 2017 Schuylkill Valley Journal (V45).

Post Rehab

Claire Scott

HONORABLE MENTION – THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS
NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY

Post Rehab

by Claire Scott

Claire.Scott

they taught us to pray     mother    to our lord

jesus for strength to refuse

 

the call of meth of vodka of vicodin

to call our sponsor eat three

 

meals a day fresh berries    mother

& broccoli run a mile each morning

 

they say keep a gratitude journal

pages filled with purple ink

mother     mine is empty

 

midnight visitors to keep money

coming to keep me in needles

mother     & crystal meth

 

mother     I can’t wait any

speed no longer

rehab has ruined

 

I pour another glass, fill a syringe

drinking darkness as jesus

dances on the cross


Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

How To Read Whitewater in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Kimberly Andrews

RUNNER UP – THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS
NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY

How to Read Whitewater in the Mid-Atlantic Region

by Kimberly Andrews

kim0817_080-16

Here’s the gift, the undetermined, toothy space in which it bubbles

up crazily, thrashing around and telling you incessantly about

 

the nature of possibility: these terrible courtships, in other words,

you’ve had with rivers, their greenish syntax letting all the silk

 

slip to the floor. Susquehanna, Lehigh, Youghigheny, their stolen

clauses, the low trees trailing their fingers as if to say there now

 

river, there now. And in the little canoe, you sound out each line

in turn. This is the side of you that is full of eagles. The story

 

unfolds in several keenly observed parts: eddies in their indecision.

Standing waves like stacks of letters, each signed fondly.

 

Undercut rocks against which the water boils low and smooth,

dangerous in the same way that simplicity is dangerous—

 

You read for answers because the painted ceiling above you

demands a key to its own reflection. You read for the sluice

 

because you are normal: you ask for directions, you are

standard in that finally, you favor the tongue harbored between

 

the wide-set molars, the sunlight bouncing off of a body

shaped like allowance, like the valleys you dare to call your home.


Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is a poet and literary critic. She is also the author of A Brief History of Fruit, winner of the 2018 Akron Prize for Poetry and forthcoming from the University of Akron Press, and BETWEEN, winner of the 2017 New Women’s Voices Prize from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Maryland and teaches at Washington College, and you can find her on Twitter at @kqandrews.

Nine-Year-Old Suicide In Reverse

Chad Frame

RUNNER UP – THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS
NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY

Nine-Year-Old Suicide in Reverse

for Jamel Myles

by Chad Frame

Chad.Frame

 

A candle unsnuffs, its smoke drawn back in,

its guttering, finger width flame relit.

The bright blue JanSport rises from the floor

and hooks its straps around your slight shoulders.

 

You dart backwards down the carpeted stairs.

The door unslams. The yellow bus backs up

around the cul-de-sac. Your eyes unclench.

The children suck words back away from you.

 

High-fletched F, its bulbless semiquaver.

Lofty A, its slopes unassailable.

Selfsame, cliquish GG, backs turned to shun.

Surprised O, rolling, caught up in all this.

And T, the final, burning cross of it.

 

That morning, unknowing, your mother smiles,

untousles your hair like wind smoothing grass,

and sits. Inky clouds of coffee billow

past her pursed lips like possessing spirits.

 

All Objects

Brittanie Sterner

RUNNER UP – THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS
NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY

All Objects

by Brittanie Sterner

Brittanie.Sterner

Here are feet on the floor of a plane over Omaha:
Here are swatches of ground turning into ground
Here is voice mail from an unknown number
Here is every computer-generated test
Here is waiting with glass
Here is middle-night
Here are foreheads touching here are hands in space
Here is rope
Here is the braid that makes the rope
Here is a death one day
Here is another death
Here is another death
Here is perched investment
Here are plot equations from above
Here are characters for land and love
Here is unstoppable weather
Here is a bowl of ocean
Here is food digesting
Here is top of the bottom
Here is morning, again
Here is wake with a ship on the tongue
Here is a mouth of fog
Here are rotaries of birds
Here beads traffic in rosaries
Here graves imitate trees in rows
Here is orchard
Here is fruit clung and hatched
Here is a basket
Here are hands applied over Omaha, braiding highways
Here lawns cropped in rectangles
Here tillers in bunches transit
Here an accident that didn’t make news
Here clipped migration
Here is lamp on a timer
Here letters spell electricity
Here is the room after leaving
Here is the light going off.


Brittanie Sterner has been writing poems since childhood. She holds a BFA in poetry from Emerson College and an MS in arts administration from Drexel University, and her storytelling research has been published in the Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society. She currently serves as the director of programming for One Book, One Philadelphia, a project of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Elegy For Breath

Carlos Andres Gomez

 

WINNER OF THE 2019 SANDY CRIMMINS
NATIONAL PRIZE IN POETRY

Elegy For Breath

by Carlos Andres Gomez

Carloslaughing_PoetryContestWinner

Picture the adolescent: mimicking

what makes him worthy. Pick his

most potent snapshot for click-

bait: fresh-faced but mean-

mugging; same mask I’d pull

clean across my jaw for any

Polaroid of me & my best friend

in eighth grade. Let’s be clear: joke

stance—now used to justify

killing          make just     the just-

snuffed, just clumsy youth branded

bold-fonted & blood thirst. Peace

sign transmogrified to gang sign—

since the expert talking head

confirmed it. The expert talks &

confirms inside a rectangular frame

that renders most of him invisible.

Talks & confirms        two bullet-

points         from the bleached-

teeth interviewer. But nowhere

is the testimony of       breath

stifled, the practiced hands that

remained watched whenever they

ascended, whether in prayer or

surrender, holding a bag of groceries,

a cell phone, or a son. Nowhere

is that last sigh  freed  from his tired

lungs as the sixth shot   struck

the base of his skull    sprinting

with back turned. The neighbor describes

that final sound I did not hear   & yet

cannot   unhear. It is suddenly the last

sound I hear from too many people

I love: my brother-in-law, my four

nephews, my high school best friend,

my infant son. (Every police officer

is out in the world       defending

himself. Every one of them describes

the nightmares in which they see

a dark object against the darkness

that turns into fire & populates a rigid

void with lead. Every police officer

is a human being. He makes mistakes

sometimes. He got nervous. He thought

about his two kids & his pregnant wife,

it was fourteen days before retirement.

He’s never missed a Sunday at church.

Believe me, it’s true. I’ve seen him pass

the donation plate. Sometimes

he takes a naked, crumpled bill in his

calloused hands, wipes the sweat

& residue on his crotch.) I saw Jesus

on Easter Sunday        still  resting

on the wall, a hooded sweatshirt

draped across his torso from the college

he was to attend  just to make it all a bit

more decent. Everything you stare into

becomes a fist, a loaded weapon aimed

at your face. I wake up in a country

based on a single document made

to protect   every human being   equally

who is a wealthy, white man. The woman

I meet after my show in Myrtle Beach,

South Carolina has no response when

I ask her why the killing of three dogs

made her protest, made her write letters,

made her boycott, while the murder

of a defenseless Black child inspired

not a single word   from her lips?

Loud music; blocking the middle of an empty

residential street; a wallet in a trembling,

outstretched palm; a back sprinting away

in fear; a woman after a car accident

knocking on a door for help; a toy

rifle in a Walmart in Ohio; a boy

in Money, Mississippi, walking, lost

in thought, a stutter from Polio, a whistle

he learned to cope with his stammer,

when the implication of    Blackness

is always absolution     from murder.

My son’s first breath was with-

held: the cord that had nourished him

for nine months now choked   three

times   around his throat, as he fought

for life. Like his sister  at birth. Like

the father  on a sidewalk in Staten

selling cigarettes to support his six kids

to survive  born fighting  stayed fighting

to breathe. When my son   gasped

finally  & then slumbered into dream,

his blooming tenderness  unguarded  as

a single orchid, I said a silent prayer

for the imagined crimes his world was busy

inventing, to condemn him  for being born

Black   & having the courage   to breathe.


Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2018 Broken River Prize. Winner of the 2018 Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize, 2018 Sequestrum Editor’s Reprint Award in Poetry, 2015 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Yale Review, BuzzFeed Reader, Rattle, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape (Simon & Schuster, 2012), and elsewhere. For more, please visit: CarlosLive.com.

Peace Is a Dream

Martin Wiley

Peace Is a Dream

by Martin Wiley

Martin Wiley_Peace Is a Dream

 

Pete was thin,

just muscle, dark skin and anger,

stuffed inside an ancient Iron Maiden The Number of the Beast t-shirt,

 

and he lived on the far side of town, in the apartments

for people who cleaned the big houses where

people like me lived.  He led us through

shadows and into the park

—we would have followed him anywhere—

officially it was closed for the night, but that only meant

no one would notice we were there.

 

Harsh outlines from streetlamps, everything unfocused but

edges sharp—we headed for the swing-set, which had become,

for decades, the place for teenagers

out late.  It was cleaned regularly

but the weeds along the fence were

a breeding ground

 

for broken glass,

used condoms, tiny vials,

plastic baggies.  Then Pete nodded

to Danny, who pulled his flask

from his back pocket.

 

We drank while Pete rolled joints, the only sound

the creaking of those rusted swings.

 

On nights like these, when the air

teased the ability to become free and clear, when we

could spot the night sky if not

the stars, our future seemed fluid and visible, and we

could still dream

of connections

that mattered.


As a mixed-race child of the 80’s, Martin Wiley grew up both confronting and embracing a world that was as jumbled and confused as he was. His current work is an attempt to examine what it was to search for manhood in that time and place. A long-time poet and spoken word artist, for the past few years he had labeled himself a “recovering poet.”His children’s love of words has dragged him, mostly happily, off the wagon. After receiving his MFA from Rutgers-Camden, he remain in Philadelphia, working at Project HOME, being a dad and husband, and finding time, when possible, to write.

Barefoot

Leonard Kress

Barefoot

by Leonard Kress

Leonard Kress_Barefoot

When I was younger, I was always leaving my shoes

behind, always, though, with a good excuse.

One time, the March on Washington to protest

the bombing of Cambodia, Kent State, after settling down

for the night in a church loft, awakened

from sleep to romp on the Capitol lawn to play hide

 

and seek by the Doric columns, someone had hidden

my things. For the entire weekend I went shoe-

less. The grassy mall, Joan Baez—we had awakened

the planet’s consciousness, it seemed, the Pentagon had no excuse

not to implode, its walls tumbling down,

its frayed-suit denizens joining the earnest frolic in protest

 

of themselves and their deeds. An idea they’d surely protest.

It happened so often my soles resembled hides,

thick, calloused, impenetrable. So it was easy to amble down

the chunk gravel path by the Wissahicken without shoes,

side-stepping horseshit with friends, excused

from their lack of hardiness, though clearly awake

 

to the chance I might be onto something, in the wake

of others who’d gone barefoot before. They don’t protest

as we pay homage to Chief Tedyuscung’s statue, poor excuse

for heroic sculpture, the last of his tribe, nowhere to hide,

gazing west and chiseled naked, not even shoes

for protection―from smashed beer bottles flung down

 

from the summit. Once when I felt the need to calm down

ready for some sort of awakening

I found a huge zazen session, removed my shoes

and entered the campus gym, ignoring protesting

locked-out gymnasts. I tried to hide

The fire blazing in my knees, having to excuse

 

myself, barefoot again, for what seemed an excuse

of a counseling session. Winter was bearing down,

and the smug, bored psychologist could not hide

her diagnosis. When YAHWEH woke

up Moses to propose his mission, wary Moses protested,

but still approached sacred ground, removing first his shoes.


Leonard Kress published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review. Recent collections: The Orpheus Complex, and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz published in 2018.

A Turn in the Path

Kari Ann Ebert

A Turn in the Path

by Kari Ann Ebert

Kari Ebert_A Turn in the Path

I leave you standing on the curb

step over the border of river rocks—

 

so much like my mother’s inukshuk

built with care by my father.

 

Once it stood tall and strong—

arms wide calling to the sun.

 

I used to sit quiet in its shade

examine that inukshuk,

 

wonder what trail it marked for her

why she had to see it built—

 

that pile of grey stones like a harbinger

on the edge of her suburban lawn.

 

Now, years later, it leans to one side.

Its body weakened by a burden unknown

 

Heavy with its own secret weight

like the smooth warm weight of your hand

 

on the back of my neck.

I stop. Pick up three rocks,

 

memorize their size and heft

drop them into my pocket.


Winner of the 2018 Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest, Kari Ann Ebert’s poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Mojave River Review, Gravel, The Broadkill Review, and Gargoyle among others. She is working on her first poetry collection, Alphabet of Mo(u)rning. Kari lives in Delaware and has two children who also write.

Isaiah 54:5 (A Self-Portrait)

Kari Ann Ebert

Isaiah 54:5 (A Self-Portrait)

by Kari Ann Ebert

Kari Ebert_A Turn in the Path

He packed up the years in one suitcase

at summer’s bloom    left everything undone

I stood    still & wooden    in the empty yard

exhausted by the sudden drought

 

The grass is too high now

Midsummer sun paints its lacquer

on my temples    on my lip and neck

I’ve waited until tall blades bare their teeth

snap at my kneecaps

The anyone-can-do-it-

just-start-her-up-and-go instructions he left

fester under my tongue like vinegar

I turn the key   flinch at its growl

 

The rider    all rusty & rife with demons

lurches down the lawn    chews out a row

so straight    so sure of itself

until the sputter & grind wind down to a stop

refuse to budge another inch

The heat rises      overwhelms me with its tide

Fury crawls up my spine     I take a swing at the sky

 

My Maker    My Creator

You promised to be my holy husband in his stead

yet it is I alone who pulls at the sludge    wrestles with the ancient blade

slices my finger open like his mother’s cherry cheesecake

You promised to redeem the time    to make it mine once more

yet the moth and locusts return each harvest

all that remain are weeds & serpents’ nests

all that remains is this rage

 

Hearing no response I fall to the ground

Clippings & sweat form a sheen     cover my skin like jade

I sit in the lotus position    as still as stone

listen as the breeze rustles across the short path I made


Winner of the 2018 Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest, Kari Ann Ebert’s poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Mojave River Review, Gravel, The Broadkill Review, and Gargoyle among others. She is working on her first poetry collection, Alphabet of Mo(u)rning. Kari lives in Delaware and has two children who also write.