We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press Poetry Month Contest. Wonderful work keeps pouring in via our submission portal, and these pieces by Brittany Adames, Shirley Jones-Luke, Mira Martin-Parker, and Uche Ogbuji stood out.
We’d also like to acknowledge excellent work by poets Holly Mancuso, Aby Macias, and Brittany Adames.
We hope you’ll enjoy these editors’ picks as much as we did.
A Young Girl Pares Fruit
by Brittany Adames
Brittany Adames is an eighteen-year-old Dominican-American writer. Her work has been previously published in CALAMITY Magazine, Bombus Press, Rumble Fish Quarterly, TRACK//FOUR, and Rust+Moth, among others. She is pursuing a major in creative writing at Emerson College and serves as the poetry editor for Ascend Magazine and prose reader for The Blueshift Journal. She has been regionally and nationally recognized by the Scholastic Writing Awards.
You Gotta Let It Hit the Skin
by Shirley Jones-Luke
Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer of color. Ms. Luke lives in Boston, Mass. She has an MA from UMass Boston and an MFA from Emerson College. Her work mixes poetry with memoir. Shirley was a Poetry Fellow at the 2017 Watering Hole Poetry Retreat. She will be attending VONA (Voices of Our Nation) in June 2018.
Like a Poor Girl
by Mira Martin-Parker
I wear my jewelry like a poor girl—large and real. I wear my clothes like a poor girl—cleaned and ironed. My whites are always whiter that white and I’m always de-linting myself when I wear black. There’s not a spec of dirt or fuzz on my sweaters. Like a poor girl, I am self-conscious at formal tables. I lose my tongue. I don’t order beer. Like a poor girl I read Dostoyevsky on the train. Because, like a poor girl, I have over educated myself. I am like a poor girl when I get my paycheck. I spend it all at once, down to my last ten dollars. I cannot save a thing. For, like a poor girl there are so many things I need, like a cashmere coat, tailor-made in North Beach, with silk lining and antique buttons. And it’s impossible for me to imagine going without wine from the wine shop, fresh baked bread, and organic produce, since like a poor girl, I must have the best of everything. My desk at work is always clean, my bathroom at home is spotless—I bleach each mold spot when it first appears. Like a poor girl, I live in the best city, in a lovely neighborhood, in a darling apartment. But in spite of all that I do, like a poor girl, nothing works, and it’s always apparent right away to everyone that I am a poor girl, and like the poor girl that I am I can’t help looking into the windows of Boulevard restaurant as I pass by on my lunch break, even though I tell myself that there’s nothing to look at inside but white people eating delicate portions of salmon and tossed greens and drinking glasses of wine. Still, I can’t help but look in at them—especially the men—because deep inside I will always be, just like a poor girl.
Mira Martin-Parker earned an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including the Istanbul Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Mythium, and Zyzzyva. Her collection of short stories, The Carpet Merchant’s Daughter, won the 2013 Five [Quarterly] e-chapbook competition.
by Uche Ogbuji
Who said they brought Magilla from Congo bush? Na lie! Saint Lumumba himself showed me His New York City stomping grounds. That Toby Couldn’t see for Kunta Kinte, though He made hay on claiming President Nonesuch For Kenya. Oh no, this ape of the John Doe Was fabbed in US of A. Republics Are King Kong of their combined simian subjects; This one’s about to eat its Jump Jim Crow.
The 45 speed of 419 scheme Plays like this:
Oh you noble poor, rejects From the Merkin Dreamliner, we’re on your team.
Just shave an edge more from your pennies our way And we’ll guarantee a lifetime of C.R.E.A.M. Our magic hat is bringing your jobs back, Bae!
Just need a deposit to get things rolling: Health care, welfare, public housing, let’s just say We’ll trade imploded tax code when we come polling Won’t hurt a bit! Trust us, our fathers made Grand puba, We keep the Illuminati Skeleton key in hock at the lodges, see!
Next to Brazzaville diamonds, to kryptonite For China when we throw cash at the Navy And best believe we’ll serve Mexico right From the get-go. Which brings us to that mob, The refugees and immigrants here to fight You good white people for each and every job.
We got your back, sending them all the fuck back, Skewer those fools on their own shish-kebab Our motto: build a wall; hug a smokestack, Jack!
Stand back from flood of green MAGAmillions The whiteman economy back in black.
It lives on in breathtaking resilience, Lure of big men, with their Beemer Benzes, Their WAGs spa-side touching up their brazilians.
An aspiring eye shutters out all offenses, It winks at junkets to Merry Lagos, Watering down its shock at such expenses.
But should they even think to dump the Negus Problem is, what you vote ain’t what you get; Our ballot box is stuffed—old Cold War threat Cyber-wise realized to come back and break us— Active Measures, comrade. This candidate Is echt Manchu, mind you, he knows no nyet.
He’ll yell: Look! Here comes a caliphate, Then auction off our rivers and our shale. Think we won’t deal to return the Kodiak State? Magilla’s taken the shop: we’re all on sale.
Uche Ogbuji, more properly Úchèńnà Ogbújí, was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived in Egypt, England, and elsewhere before settling near Boulder, Colorado. A computer engineer and entrepreneur by trade, his poetry chapbook, Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press) is a Colorado Book Award Winner and a Westword Award Winner (“Best Environmental Poetry”). His poems, published worldwide, fuse Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop. He co-hosts the Poetry Voice podcast and featured in the Best New African Poets anthology.
On Twitter as @uogbuji.
BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month
Maybe you have lines living in you. Maybe you’ve been walking around like the speaker in Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”: “This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.” Maybe you’ve been inspired by Isobel O’Hare’s erasures, and have an urge to address some things. Maybe you’ve woken up in the spiked night, with a line swimming out of the deep. Maybe you have a story to tell. Or, maybe you memorized Jericho Brown’s “Colosseum” and have been repeating to yourself: “I cannot locate the origin / Of slaughter, but I know / How my own feels, that I live with it / And sometimes use it / To get the living done . . .”
These poetic efforts have touched me in the last few months, in that strange trigonometry of language, chance, and seeking, that we readers and writers do. Brown’s lines resonated with me, brought me low, and offered something – if not quite comfort, then a kind of recognition.