On the Solitary Death of Uncle Mike

Sean Webb

Editor’s Choice: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

You better hope that you’re lucky
enough to die outside like a tick-ridden
raccoon, bloating and frozen in the first
week of March, lucky enough to be
casually murdered or mowed down
on a busy street by a hulking heap
of American steel, then they just might
tag and take you to the cold heart of the city
morgue where at least you could rest
like old plans for some benignly useful
city project in a tidy municipal drawer,
or you better hope your loved ones have
twenty-one-hundred bucks on them
when the ambulance arrives, futilely,
because if you happen to die inside
your family rowhome in the city
of brotherly fuck you and no one has
the cash on them to pay the undertaker
to come, they’ll leave you without
a second thought, lifeless and decaying
on your plaid couch, because after all
even when you are finally incapable
of doing anything, you better have
the money to grease the wheels of
America’s rust-bucket free-enterprise
shit-show of callousness, I got mine-
get yours, godblessamerica, too stupid
to get ourselves out of sad festering
state of pigheaded dysfunction or
you’re fucked for good. Capiche?


Sean Webb has received many honors for his work including fellowships from The Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Utah Arts Council. Most recently he was awarded the Passages North Neutrino prize, 1st place in the Gemini Magazine 2017 Poetry Open, and 2nd place in the 2017 Public Poetry contest. His chapbook, The Constant Parades, was selected by Afaa Weaver as a runner-up in the 2017 Moonstone Poetry chapbook competition. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and in 2005 he served as Poet Laureate of Montgomery County Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in dozens of publications including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Nimrod, Mudfish, The Quarterly, The Seattle Review, Greensboro Review, and the anthology Frances and Clare in Poetry.

Lightbearers

Tyler Dunston

Editor’s Choice: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

The zebrafish’s neon stripes
and globe eyes flash in LEDs
as our bodies marble in reply with squiggles
of phosphorus. Who can say
what spirit moves in us as it moves
eel-like on my mom’s blue hat, the one
with a crab on the front, brim hovering
like a cave mouth over her invisible face?
Who can say what god spoke to her
earlier at church while I was sleeping?
My brother extends an awkward hand to spook
some arowanas gliding too close to the glass,
and mom twitches as if she means
to stop him, then reconsiders, stills her hand
and rests it in the dark as if upon
a shoulder, as I wonder what the pastor said
today and if it would have moved
me still in spite of everything.

Mother Explains

Jane C. Miller

Honorable Mention: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Jane Miller_poetry

Where your brother went, a river met him at the shadow’s edge, a river he walked on
we cannot see, though it flows near us and all the small fish you can imagine wait, circling as if on a merry-go-round until he toes in; and it is then they feel his small steps, each vibration a plated splash and they rise: blue gills, pygmy puffer fish, black mollies, orange clowns, all clamber, making for him a path.

He is not alone. Every step he takes, a fish takes its place underfoot, each fish a finned rock holding him as he walks so that your brother who cannot swim begins to hopscotch, sinking ever so slightly and then popping up, the fish under him shimmering like landing lights; in the dimpling water, the kiss of stars where he treads. He twirls and looks back; his arms spread wide beckon us, but the shore he left is fogged and fading.

Now he is distant and small, but in the vanishing I see him crawl into fins and scales
and become one of them, joyous and teeming. He has learned a new way to live and here inside us, who are mostly water, when you least expect it, you will shiver
and feel him.


Jane C. Miller’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals. She received first prize in Naugatuck River Review’s 11th annual narrative poetry contest. A fellowship recipient from the Delaware Division of the Arts, Miller is co-author of the collection, Walking the Sunken Boards published by Pond Road Press (2019).

Matthew

Chad Frame

Honorable Mention: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Chad Frame_poetry

We’re twenty, nude, everything firm
and responsive to the touch, soft
breeze cool on our flanks as the pool
laps small waves at the edges, night
purpling above us. You tell me

you have feelings, but I am young
enough to believe chemistry
waits dormant in all things for fire
to ignite—that perfect bonds form
on a whim. Years pass by in months,

six not talking, three back in touch,
each fuck-of-the-week with his flaws
you sob to me—the built frat boy
with awful car playlists, the twink
who texts you from across the room,

the circuit boy who makes the clack-
clack of credit cards on mirrors
every morning as he cuts
his breakfast lines. And each painting
you finish with a casual

mastery, sneaking some aspect
of one of them onto canvas—
the hyperreal Spartan soldier
who looks exactly like the guy
really into getting tied up,

the abstract square that is the house
you move into for a few months
with the one with the high-pitched voice
that drives you to drink and tell me
in some drab diner, like always,

that you wish we could have made it
work. A tentacle of cold cream
slowly wraps around my coffee
as I joke At least you’d paint me,
and the whole dark is strangled pale
again.


Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth, and other journals and anthologies, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is the Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv performance troupe, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat.

On Wassily Kandinsky’s Painting: “Little Painting in Yellow”

Kathleen Shaw

Honorable Mention: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Kathleen Shaw_poetry

Just before the Great War, Kandinsky
took time to paint something yellow,
something little, something that looked
like nothing anyone had ever seen. How
shocked they were– how outre to
paint something so unwarlike, how
perverse to veer from standards.
Is that an egg? Is that a sun? Is that
a cloud? Is that a mouth?
Yes, yes, yes, yes and no, no, no, no,
said Kandinsky, silently out loud,
thinking, while not thinking of war.


Kathleen Shaw is a semi-retired assistant professor of English at a community college. She has had poetry published in Philadelphia Stories, Anthology magazine, Derail, Schuylkill Valley Journal and online journals. She is now in the process of completing her first novel.

How to Ride a Train in the Andes

Lupita Eyde-Tucker

Runner Up: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Lupita_Eyde-Tucker.photo_poetry

In a coastal sweatland shanty town, I vowed
to clamber onto the corrugated steel
roof of a train car, to throw my life

up first like a knapsack, charcoal-cleanse
my nose, my lungs, my pores— be delivered
aching, for twelve-hours up a shifty seam

of steel my Abuelito laid
the one who carried the train on his back
Hold my breath, stay low, remember

to not drink chicha on the roof with the local boys
not to lose my head, or turn my back
on the tunnel like bisabuelo did. Hold tight

until the train stops just past Devil’s Nose
in a tiny Andes town, overlooked
by wooden window balconies

steel-sliced cobblestone kingdom
bearing a cordillera crown. Here
I let my fingers stroke the velvet mountain’s cloak

and from the furrows of the knitted fields
I see my Abuelita come running
the one waiting for the whistle

tired of air-kissing the cheek of fate
watch her smudge coal off her brow
watch her tuck family secrets down her blouse

purchase a ticket to another life
The first man who crosses my path
she vowed: con ése me largo.


Lupita Eyde-Tucker writes and translates poetry in English and Spanish. She’s the winner of the 2019 Betty Gabehart Prize for Poetry, and her poems appear in Nashville Review, SWWIM, The Florida Review, Asymptote, Columbia Journal, Raleigh Review, and are forthcoming in The Arkansas International, Chautauqua, Yemassee, and Waccamaw. She’s currently translating two collections of poetry by Venezuelan poet Oriette D’Angelo. Lupita and her husband live and homeschool their children in Florida. Read more of her poems at: www.NotEnoughPoetry.com

Lukens Steel, Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Kyle Carrozza

Runner Up: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

kylecarrozzaphoto_poetry

            And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
The steel mill that sprawled across the city
reached toward the sky with the roofs of each wing.
Even on Sundays, the men in torn
khakis and faded t-shirts filed into the mill.

My father was one of them. In Sunday School,
I imagined him standing around, shooting the shit
about recession or politics, waiting for his shift
to begin. Punching in is a ritual of Wonder
Bread and pocket change.
            The body of Christ, given for you.

He made huge sheets of steel, long,
pure, and absolutely silver until
outsourcing turned emblem into epitaph—
Bethlehem Steel’s takeover could not save the place.
Still, the mill stands, decaying, hollow
monument to itself, the rituals abandoned.

The Lord loves the gates of Zion
            more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

Almost no steel is produced anymore;
instead, the silver pours out onto the faded
streets, the concrete walls of the city’s banks,
into the hair of old men.


Kyle Carrozza is a teacher and soccer coach who lives and breathes Coatesville, PA. His journalism has been published in The Coatesville Times, Scarecrow Grin, and The Korean Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in The City Key.

Feeding My Father Pudding While Watching Bonanza

Chad Frame

Runner Up: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Chad Frame_poetry

All any relationship boils down to
is are you willing to do this for me
or aren’t you? Hoss and tapioca

and what remains of your life all balanced
precariously on a plastic spoon.
Every week, the grown Cartwright boys learn

another life lesson from their father
who has seen some things in his day, who knows
better. And maybe all death really is

is gradual unlearning, the pudding
crusting in your beard like infant spit-up.
I have driven two hundred miles each day

for two weeks to be here to watch old shows,
nurses prodding, your chest rising, falling,
but these are the distances that matter—

spoon to mouth, screen to face, son to father,
father to grave. Your thousand-yard stare’s fixed
vaguely on the wall-arm television

where Michael Landon is falling in love
with Bonnie Bedelia, and we know
(half-century old spoiler) that Hoss dies

offscreen because Dan Blocker dies offscreen
from botched surgery. But it is enough
to know the twangy theme is still playing,

galloping into and out of the room,
even when the spoon scrapes an empty cup,
even when we pull the sheets all the way up.


Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth, and other journals and anthologies, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is the Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv performance troupe, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat.

Milk Sickness: A Mother Worries as Her Children Sleep

Kari Ann Ebert

Winner of the 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Kari_Ann_Ebert_poetry

sometimes I see snakes in a milk pail
noisy tumbles of coils & scales
I lie awake steeled vigilant
absorb the discord of writhing
bodies in my opaque world

I wonder if they know they swim in sacrifice

maybe they think it’s water edged by meadow
maybe they dream the spinning of their skins
will loose them to catch the scent
of mouse or egg
in a dreamscape of venom & froth

or is it panic
black thick rich like cream
panic that weighs them down
roiling blind only to find they’re trapped
and soused in humors

maybe the milk’s a mirror
a mother-of-pearl shine that splashes
the black snake hole in my eye
if I stare at the waves the sloshes of nacre
maybe my tongue will smell a way out
lift me with a swell as the vipers sink
like weighted calcite beneath the tide
black pearls lost at sea
maybe then stillness will claim me
a silence only I can taste like stolen butter


Kari Ann Ebert is a poet & writer living in Dover, Delaware. She was recently awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship by the Delaware Division of the Arts (2020). Winner of the 2018 Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest, her work has appeared in Mojave River Review, Philadelphia Stories, The Broadkill Review, and Gargoyle, as well as several anthologies. She was selected to attend the BOAAT Press Writer’s Retreat (2020) with Shane McCrae, awarded a fellowship by Brooklyn Poets (2019), and selected to attend the Delaware Division of the Arts Seashore Writers Retreat (2016). She also enjoys making up-cycled art and collaborating with local artists, musicians, and writers.

Willa on North Broad Street*

Yvonne

Yvonne final headshot 2

from The School of Clara Ward

 

Who made beauty, I ask you. God or the devil?

When I first touched a piano, the keys twinkled

Like heavenly stars. All over me they sprinkled

Some kind of thrill. Just a child, I was no rebel.

But Mother got down on her knees and swept

The stardust up—from every corner, every bed—

Pulled me out of school—Fearing what filth I read?

She stuffed her pockets with stardust and wept.

Mine is an old humble house with good solid bones.

Such weeping and laughing! The still of nights and dawns!

I chose my own voice and wore my own gowns.

They threw me out the church! For teen love songs.

I sing. Beauty! God made, but the devil stole it.

Mother vowed to get it all back. Every little bit.

 

*Aretha Franklin’s mentor, Clara Ward spawned innovations in singing, composing, and arranging for decades in Gospel music while her sister Willarene sang backup for Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, Frankie Avalon, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Dion, Fabian, and her protégé Dee Dee Sharp.


First poetry editor of pioneer feminist magazines, Aphra and Ms., Yvonne has received several awards including NEAs for poetry (1974, 1984) and a Leeway (2003) for fiction (as Yvonne Chism-Peace). Recent print publications include: From the Farther Shore (Bass River Press), Home: An Anthology (Flexible), Quiet Diamonds 2019/2018 (Orchard Street).