Poetry Month Contest Winners

Thank you poets – thank you for sharing your words, your language & imagery, your questions, and your ways of interacting with this beautiful & confounding world we inhabit. #NaPoMo makes April a month rich with posts & poetry & poets to read. The submitters to Brain Mill’s contest have enriched our reading, from prose poems to lines of lifted wisdom to switching points-of-view, to poems paired with and sandwiched alongside images.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Editors’ Choice Selections over these last weeks, as well as highlights from our featured poets. We’re excited to share the poems of our winning poets, as well as a short list of fabulous poets whose work you should seek out & read – we know we’ll be eager to read more of them.

—C. Kubasta, Assistant Poetry Editor

Winners:

Brittany Adames, “A TANK WITHOUT GASOLINE”

Alex Stolis, “Never isn’t as long as we think”

Short List:

Paramita Vadhahong, “A Meme Reimagined: Love Between the Gaps”

Emily Hockaday, “Trending Topics”

Mira Martin-Parker, “Like a Poor Girl”

Merridawn Duckler, “Samsara” and “#Nine Pick Up Line”

Cherry Jubilee, “Bordello Song”

A TANK WITHOUT GASOLINE

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.

Never isn’t as long as we think

by Alex Stolis

We are impermanence, filaments of light. We are not straightLines drawn from Point A to Forever highlighted in transparentBlue. We spin ourselves tales. Of beginnings, of firsts. First kissFirst touch. First fuck. We mythologize impatience, fumble withButtons, snaps, belts unbuckled and hair unpinned. We becomeA sonic boom rattling windows and shaking walls as if never canBe measured by decibels. Not how long we can hold our breath.

Alex Stolis lives in Minneapolis; he has had poems published in numerous journals. Recent chapbooks include Justice for all, published by Conversation Paperpress (UK) based on the last words of Texas Death Row inmates. Also, Without Dorothy, There is No Going Home from ELJ Publications. Other releases include an e-chapbook, From an iPod found in Canal Park; Duluth, MN, from Right Hand Pointing, and John Berryman is Dead from White Sky e-books. His full-length collection, Postcards from the Knife Thrower, was a runner-up for the Moon City Poetry Award. His chapbook, Perspectives on a Crime Scene, and a full length photo/poetry collection, Pop. 1280, are forthcoming from Grey Borders books.

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.

“A Meme Reimagined,” “The Sound + The Fury,” and “B (If I Should Have a Son)”

We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press Poetry Month Contest. We received many outstanding entries, from which these pieces by Paramita Vadhahong stood out. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did.

Poems by Paramita Vadhahong

A Meme Reimagined: Love between the Gaps

the sound + the fury = the unwritten sister

B (If I Should Have a Son)

Paramita Vadhahong is a Thai teenage poet and writer. She has lived in Thailand, Bahrain, and Dubai, and is currently settled in Houston. Her work mainly focuses on female strength, queerness, and the struggles and triumph of creativity. She is a contributing writer on Mindfray and has self-published a poetry chapbook (Raise the Black). Her writing can also be seen on Quora and Medium.

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.

Poems by Wren Hanks and Tracy Mishkin

We are excited to share poetry by Wren Hanks and Tracy Mishkin, whose chapbooks have been selected by editor Kiki Petrosino for inclusion in the Mineral Point Poetry Series this fall. Wren Hanks’s The Rise of Genderqueer will be available August 14, and Tracy Mishkin’s This Is Still Life releases September 18.

Poems by Wren Hanks

from The Rise of Genderqueer

Dear Daddy Pence, A List of My Luminous Indiscretions

It’s her mouth on my cock in a unisex bar stall / my hand squeezing his cock under the greasy table / it’s my girlfriend on the marble countertop / while I’m breaking a wooden spoon / against her ass / Daddy, it’s me in a car / at 16 / convincing a Catholic boy / to put his hands on my breasts / it’s that you think / I’m a dyke / when you see my shaved head / like definitions / will protect anyone / from me / Daddy, I’m coming / for your daughters / I’m coming for your sons / coming for the dog whistle genders / in between / perhaps I am / the dog whistle / in between / Daddy Pence / don’t wait up

Dear Daddy Pence, meet me at Olive Garden

We’ll compare notes on nuptial bliss / on nights staring at Seven of Nine’s tits / while our wives drink reasonable / thimbles of wine / on ironing shirts / (tomatoes off the vine, Daddy, / and garlic bread too) / on spitting our Crest into those sinks / rimmed / with cat hair / I’ll take your hand / and ask you how long it’s been / really / since one look / at a man’s / brought your pulse up / I know the answer, already, Daddy / It’s the camera-ready red / this soldier’s aiming for

Daddy Pence, when you kiss your wife is it like

stars and stripes / your tongue an eagle’s wing / no wait a talon / do you make her mute, daddy / the way you wanna make me / a silent statistic / de-transitioned with those / chewable / bubblegums hips / Daddy, were you ever / the beauty / on someone’s bed / have you ever been / a fucking object

Wren Hanks is the author of Prophet Fever (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Ghost Skin (Porkbelly Press). A 2016 Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow, his recent work appears in Best New Poets 2016, Foglifter, Jellyfish Magazine, The Wanderer, and elsewhere. He is an associate editor for Sundress Publications and co-edited Curious Specimens, an anthology of the strange and uncanny. His third chapbook, gar child, is forthcoming from Tree Light Books. He lives in Brooklyn, and you can find him on twitter @suitofscales.

Poems by Tracy Mishkin

from This Is Still Life

The Deadweight Machine

As if a tectonic shift has dumped a mountain on his chest, my husband slumps in the easy chair. Five weeks until the homeowners insurance drops us, stacks of useful junk around the yard. The deadweight machine measures how you hold up against tension and compression.

When he begins to snore like Rip Van Winkle, I imagine an organic grocer’s typo has created a display of orgasmic blueberries. I eat them all without paying. A man in a green apron restocks the shelves with tender hands.

Before the war, people weighed beginning again in a new language against the coming storm. Every time I think of leaving, he catches a death rattle in my car, stops the house from flooding, sweet-talks a raccoon out the kitchen door.

This is Still Life

The house has a fresh coat of pain. Screwdriver and utility knife abandoned on the bed. Drawers choked with plastic forks. Receipts, seeds, and batteries. Needles, carpet tacks, an open blade. Red string streaming from cabinets—the battle flag of a man who throws nothing away.

I should have split when I first saw his apartment, crammed with power tools and old TVs. Barely space to sleep. But we weren’t sleeping, we were burning. Falling. More room in my heart for crazy than I knew.

My mother knows I’d rather get wet than wait. She warns me not to fight to reach the items on the highest shelf. Lightning isn’t fair, she says. Arugula doesn’t make it healthy. When you need a Phillips, all you find are flatheads. She calls my house memento mori: orchids, bonsai, sun-bleached boards.

Stumbling Through

After the yellow tape and the dark blood, after the wallet with our family photos is released, after three days of paid bereavement pass and the jar goes round at work for casket funds, after I dream of identifying the body, after the cops come back to question us again, after praise for the Lord and the embalmer’s skill, after whispers of revenge and today we do not mourn, then the first breath without a sob.

Tracy Mishkin is a call center veteran with a PhD and a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Butler University. She is the author of two previous chapbooks, I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s (Finishing Line Press, 2014) and The Night I Quit Flossing (Five Oaks Press, 2016). She been nominated twice for a Pushcart — both times by Parody — and published in Raleigh Review and Rat’s Ass Review.

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.

“A Young Girl Pares Fruit,” “You Gotta Let It Hit the Skin,” “Like a Poor Girl,” and “Oyinbo Banana”

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.

Oyinbo Banana

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.

Poetry Month Feature

The Matador Review, an online literature and art quarterly, launched in January 2016 and is physically based in Chicago, Illinois. Their purpose is “to promote ‘alternative work’ from both art and literature,” and they regularly publish poetry, fiction, flash, nonfiction, and art features. In seeking work from both emerging and established artists, publishing interviews, and continuing to promote the work of their contributors through the Matador blog, The Matador Review seeks to be a “cultural conservationist for the alternative world.”

Perusing the The Matador Review, its literature and imagery, is a sensory pleasure – there are the voices and bodies we inhabit. Sutures are evident, as are scars.

For this National Poetry Month, we invite you to explore The Matador Review and discover it for yourself: the Spring issue is available now.

The Matador Review would particularly like to signal boost torrin a. greathouse and her poems “When My Brother Makes a Joke About Trans Panic” and “Definitions for Body as Prison Metaphor.”

torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans womxn & cripple-punk from Southern California. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Black Napkin Press. She is a Best of Net, Best New Poets, & Pushcart Prize nominee, and the author of one chapbook,Therǝ is a Case That I Ɐm (Damaged Goods Press, 2017). When they are not writing, their hobbies include pursuing a bachelor’s degree, awkwardly drinking coffee at parties, & trying to find some goddamn size 13 heels. torrin was recently given a shoutoutby Kaveh Akbar in The Paris Review‘s Poetry Rx column, and readers can read much more of their work at https://tagreathousepoetry.wixsite.com/home.

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.

Poems by Rita Feinstein and Sarah McCartt-Jackson

We are excited to share poetry by Rita Feinstein and Sarah McCartt-Jackson, whose chapbooks have been selected by editor Kiki Petrosino for inclusion in the Mineral Point Poetry Series this fall. Rita Feinstein’s Life on Dodge will be available October 16, and Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s Calf Canyon releases November 13.

Poems by Rita Feinstein

from Life on Dodge

When you left, there was a sound like the scraping of a dagger being unsheathed from my heart, and in the left-behind hollow, a red bat came to roost. Good, I thought, because bats go where moths go and moths go where the light is, which means there’s still something like a streetlamp in me, however dusty and guttering. But where its corona bleeds to black, you can still hear it—the sleek shriek of steel against bone, the infinite echo of you pulling away.

You have gone, and so can I. I can go to a red planet with no name, no coordinates. There is no wind here, no dust, nowhere to stake a flag. No rotation, no view. No ocean under the crust and no ice at the poles. There is no gravity, no atmosphere, and no one to name its craters. There is not a robot to help repair the spaceship I don’t have. There are no giant worms in the sand. There is no sand. There is nothing here but not enough of it.

This planet is my home now— might as well name it. I name it Dodge, in the hope that someday I will get the hell out of it. Or that it will get out of me. It lodges deeply in my hips, constricting its fist. It’s a hard round ache in my breasts. I can taste it on the back of my tongue, sour like beef blood. The last time I hurt this much, we were too poor even for a bath plug, so you filled a plastic bag with sand and let the drain suck it into place. It was the best you could do. The iron-orange water held, but so did the pain.

Rita Feinstein is a graduate of Oregon State University’s MFA program. Her work has appeared in The Cossack Review, Permafrost, Grist, and Spry Literary Journal, among other publications. She lives with her husband, who is a lawyer, and her dog, who is not.

Poems by Sarah McCartt-Jackson

from Calf Canyon

Drought

It begins with drink. Our eyes drink color and reflect it back to our brains, which drink shape. Shape drinks shade, leafshadows scrambling on their stems like starlings stuck to wire. Wire drinks voices, spliced threads chopped apart and ribosomed back together in a winding ladder propped against our earlobes. Our earbones drink the wet sounds of leaves unfolding newborn fists, the desperate sound of fish gills in a boat bucket. Our hands drink the wormblood and hook. Our foreheads drink sweat, our forearms hair and knuckle. Our ankles the mosquito tongue, dry of our neighbor’s blood. Boatplanks drink scales and shoe soles and cigarette ash and ocean fog and the heat of sunlogged turtles, which drink the cloverstem milk, which drinks the roothairs, which drink the cavelight, which drinks the batwing, drinks the limestone, drinks the fossilbone slipped between a moltenstone harvest. The inner core drinks iron-tasting pennies, nickel. Not enough liquid in the world to fill its iron core. And this is how in drought I learn a rogue billet does not raise a doe’s eye, how a doe does not lift from drinking.

Wildfire

We watched the fires spread.

Neighbors set up their lawn chairs

to watch their neighbors’ houses burn.

Which is how I caught a bottle

to the face when I threw a cigarette

butt out the window. And how

the bottle shattered and fractured

the windshield after my jaw and how later

he didn’t remember (or said he didn’t)

how the windshield cracked,

and I told him,

and he said that wasn’t true.

And so it wasn’t true.

Creston

I did not see the moonwashed lake behind our trailer or the yellow finch in the avocado tree. I did not see the fire, the smoke of which we watched from the mustard thistle lawn. I did not see the coyotes eating the dead cattle or the California mouse while it was still alive. I did not see old Tim (all thirty-three and married) wreck on Shell Creek Road with a nineteen-year-old passenger in lipgloss and cutoffs, when it was not just ten days before he took me to a baby’s grave on our way back from buying a pack of cigarettes, and me seventeen. The freeze on the vineyard edges. The lizard drinking from the wild pig bleed. The shotgun slug through the throat of a barn owl, hanging by awing from its owl house.

I saw what happens when girls—who are not supposed to—witness their babies’ faces. I saw the helicopters circling like released seeds, their gondola buckets of water dangling. I saw the cattle troughs dry as the Camatta creekbed and cow bodies bulked in the live oak shade. I saw a peregrine falcon tearing the mouse bones, beak to skull, hunger coagulated in its nares. A flatbed truck with whiskey and paper cups, an empty graveyard with a moon big as a belly. Reservoirs turned to sulfur. Pig hooves charred in the barbecue pit. A fifty-three-year-old owl perched in the left ventricle of my heart.

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.