The Winner is . . . My Mother's Tongue by Barbara Bald . . .
My Mother's Tongue
She used to stick it out for me, displaying
the deep cleft down its middle, irregular bumpy sides
and tiny cracks like those on misfired porcelain.
She'd extend it, roll it into a long tight tube, then
flatten it to reveal its blotchy red surface.
We'd stand before the bathroom mirror, comparing
the hated old tongue to my young flawless, flat one
and I'd listen to her berate it and whatever else she saw
as her other imperfect features.
It was a tongue that could slice with Samurai precision. Who the hell do you think you are? pierced phone lines
when my father's fishing buddies woke her at 4:00 am,
asking for Captain Joe.
Would you mind moving over? she'd hiss
at the churchgoer who refused to slide into the wooden pew,
causing me to cower in teenage humiliation.
The tongue had no respect for boundaries.
With words, You didn't let him touch you, did you?
or Where does your boyfriend stay when he visits?
it would pry into private areas where it had no place.
Mostly, her tongue would judge --
the friend who wore too many bracelets,
the spaghetti sauce that never tasted as good as hers. You don't know how to dance, do you? she would notice aloud.
The tongue always called a spade more than a spade.
I had planned to use my young tongue to spread rose petals,
to help polish those who wanted to see their own shine.
If my tongue flapped in unkindness, I hoped
it would be a butter knife rather than a sword --
Today, with my sixty-year old tongue extended to my dentist,
I learned I have what's called a geographical tongue.
The red splotches and tiny fissures of its surface resemble
Pangaea-like plates that react to spicy meals.
Remembering words, I never asked her to be born. If you don't like it, go home, cruelties I once hurled
at my mother and others, I cringed when he said it, It's hereditary, you know. You have your mother's tongue.
Second Place is . . .
ROYGBIV by Kim King . . .
The yellow bloomed a week after the biopsy --
blurring into the indigo and violet bruises, a dab
of cadmium paint, like in Matisse's Woman with a Hat,
her solemn, green-tinged face and down-turned mouth
glowered under a garish feather and baubled chapeau.
Her squared collar, like my cotton hospital gown,
over-sized and unadorned, concealed her inner wounds.
Mine were under a lacey bra, protected with steri strips
and bandages, but no artist was at the easel. Instead,
doctors weighed "high risk lesion" and "rare
in zero point zero four percent" with "prevalence
of early tubular carcinoma," while I balanced
a prism refracting white
light in Mr. Grant's seventh grade class,
reciting the colors of the spectrum, in order.
Third Place is . . .
Just Outside of Bowler City by Daniel Meltz . . .
Just Outside of Bowler City
my first teacher was my father
a sarcastic figure in underpants
he taught me how to
idolize and instigate
ran from him
she brushed her hair till it bounced
the hairbrush as a weapon
the smell of the future
but she never stepped into it
my sister showed me her workbook
a multiplication table and
she turned on cartoons
heckle and jeckle
two angry crows
she told me about her teachers at school
the teacher with the swinging can
the teacher with the blubbery neck
the one with the
the one with the
we shared a bedroom with a kidnap window
we stage-whispered at daybreak
biting the cream out of cookies
we broke bobby pins in two
and scratched every inch of a crap credenza
The Honorable Mentions . . .
Rescue by Patricia L. Goodman . . .
On the wooded steps of a Nature Center
I find a plastic eye -- the flat kind
with the pupil that moves if you shake it.
It lies there staring. I imagine
the toy it came from, a teddy bear
perhaps, who now sees the world
in monovision. When my childhood
teddy's eyes wore off, Mom replaced them
with shoe buttons. He and I saw each other
differently then, grew accustomed.
After my husband died and I began
my climb from despair, I rescued Teddy
from the back of a dark drawer.
and . . .
When to Tell Him That You Love Him by Denise R. Weuve . . .
When to Tell Him That You Love Him
until he is in the kitchen
cleaning lunch dishes and you
are walking away.
Make sure the water runs heavy and loud.
Mouth the words
never daring to let the sound escape
as he leaves the table to pour
to keep you under.
Sign it distinctly
as he hunches over to check
the air in the tires
explaining for the 8th time
how you can do this yourself.
Etch it in the sky
when he is looking downstream
waiting for Salmon to hook on his line
so he can show you the dinner
you make him throw back.
Lock it away
in an old shoebox, fill it
with the paper bag he brought Dansville oranges
to you in. The one that said
"Don't touch. Just hers."
The List of Other Semi-Finalists . . .
E=MC² by henry 7. reneau, jr.
Wood Lake Battlefield Site by Dana Yost
All Hallows Eve by John J. Brugaletta
Ice Fisher by Judith Neale
Early December by William G. Davies, Jr.
An Accident of the Imagination by Karla Linn Merrifield
Two Sides of a Window by D.M. Aderiibigbe
Ars Poetica by Linnea Harper
Tsunami Zone by Linnea Harper
Glamour in the Folds Off-Centre by Michael Luke
Midwestern Selkie Girl II by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke
A Mosquito by Sarah Ghoshal
Don’t Call Her California by Wendy Thornton
How Ian and I Learn by Joan Goodreau
Blessings of Witnessing and
Experience by Judith J. Katz