We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press Poetry Month Contest, Break Poetry Open, by talented poets Raymond Luczak, Holly Painter, henry 7. reneau, jr., and Mercury Marvin Sunderland.

We hope you’ll enjoy these editors’ picks as much as we did.

Nine Months

Raymond Luczak

mom still wonders how i lost my hearing
she mentions having a miscarriage in april 65

& being surprised to find herself pregnant

again in june 65 dr santini said id be born in january 66
instead i arrived in november 65 fully formed

not a preemie i go home two days later

not long after my sister carole takes
to reading out loud from a book
she is learning how to read to me
as i am trapped in my crib
i have apparently cocked my ears

to her voice laboriously decoding words

then mom changes her story

she remembers having the miscarriage in march 65
it fell out of her while she sat on the toilet

at 16 i constantly wondered

if that was indeed possible

a body expelling her own fetus

a heatwave in july 66

i turn pink & hot but everybody is hot anyway

mom wonders maybe somethings seriously wrong

at the hospital i am found to have double pneumonia

& a high fever i look close to dying so a priest is called in
i survive my last rites of death but my hearing doesnt

then mom changes details again

she says she had a d&c done in february 65
when she felt her fetus wasnt growing

it wasnt even two centimeters long
no idea whether it was a boy or girl
i no longer am sure what to believe

after i come back from the hospital

carole reads to me again

this time i bob my head around

she doesnt realize ive lost most of my hearing
no one has either
she gets frustrated with me & gives up

by the time i turn 2 & a half

mom asks her doctor why i havent begun talking

he says maybe hes deaf

she comes home & tells dad to stand me up & turn me

so i can face the wall up in the tub since he was washing me
i don’t respond to my name

research indicates a twin in the womb could miscarry
leaving behind its other half

in the 60s technology hadnt existed to detect

such a tiny baby
thats why moms pregnant test results in june 65
had so surprised everyone

up & down oak street where i once roamed
the trees are mostly gone

but the shadow of my other half

still runs a mean yellow stripe
right through the road of my life
the mystery of never knowing him

Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of 22 books, including Flannelwood (Red Hen Press) and Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman (Squares & Rebels). He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His online presence includes: raymondluczak.com, facebook.com/raymondsbooks, and twitter.com/deafwoof.

Cryptic Crossword LV

Holly Painter

Holly Painter lives with her wife and son in Vermont, where she teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont. Her first full-length book of poetry, Excerpts from a Natural History, was published by Titus Books in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2015. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have also been published in literary journals and anthologies in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Singapore, and the UK.

Her/Him/Our/Their/Us/Them/They Body

henry 7. reneau, jr.

henry 7. reneau, jr. writes words of conflagration to awaken the world ablaze, an inferno of free verse illuminated by his affinity for disobedience, like a chambered bullet that commits a felony every day, an immolation that blazes from his heart, phoenix-fluxed red & gold, exploding through change is gonna come to implement the fire next time. He is the author of the poetry collection, freedomland blues (Transcendent Zero Press) and the e-chapbook, physiography of the fittest (Kind of a Hurricane Press), now available from their respective publishers. Additionally, he has self-published a chapbook entitled 13hirteen Levels of Resistance, and his collection, The Book Of Blue(s) : Tryin’ To Make A Dollar Outta’ Fifteen Cents, was a finalist for the 2018 Digging Press Chapbook Series. His work has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Jaws Was on TV on a Saturday Morning

Mercury Marvin Sunderland

Mercury Marvin Sunderland is a gay Greek/Roman Wiccan autistic transgender man who uses he/him pronouns. He’s from Seattle. He currently attends The Evergreen State College, and his dream is to become the most banned author in human history.

Mercury is a 2013, 2014, 2015 winner of ACT Theater’s Young Playwright’s Program, a 2015, 2016 selected playwright for ACT Theater’s 14:48 HS, a 2016 winner of the Jack Straw Young Writer’s Program, a 2016 selected participant for the Seattle Talent Show hosted by Rainier Beach High School, and was hired as a paid representative of Youth Speaks Seattle in 2016. In 2017 alone, he was selected for and won the 2017 Youth Speaks Seattle Grand Slam, and went off as one of the top five youth slam poets representing Seattle at Brave New Voices 2017, an international slam poetry tournament treated as America’s national tournament, and was selected to perform slam poetry alongside former Seattle mayor candidate Nikkita Oliver at the University of Washington. In 2018 his illustrations were selected for While Supplies Last, an art show hosted by Anthony White, a Cornish College of the Arts graduate. In 2019 he received his first literary journal acceptance from Fearsome Critters Literary Magazine Volume Two, his second from the February 2019 issue of Marathon Literary Review, his third and fourth from Across & Through Literary Magazine, and his fifth from The Dollhouse Literary Magazine.

For this year’s National Poetry Month, Brain Mill Press & Voices want to add to your #TBR pile, sing siren songs of unsung heroes, and signal boost living poets we should be reading more. By the end of the month, we hope you will have acquired 30+ new books of poetry and that they continue to multiply in the darkness of your library. Explore new voices & new forms — re-read some old favorites — play if you liked this poet, you’ll like… the old-fashioned way, algorithm-free — just poetry lovers talking to poetry lovers, as the Universe intended. Happy #NaPoMo2019 from Brain Mill Press.