Big Mama’s: Runner Up, Sandy Crimmins Poetry Prize

The day is made up of language the way

everything is made up of something else.

The way from the street the woman

in the window of Big Mama’s wearing

a Spiritual Gangster t-shirt, waiting for her

burrito, writing in a notebook is writing

I love you all, I imagine, because,

spiritually speaking, I love you all

is gangster, even if it can only be true

in a limited way.  In a limited way, I can

imagine believing in this slogan as metaphor,

and if so, I imagine I might feel moved to stop

and to say to the woman that on certain days

I too feel like a scribbler waiting for my

spiritual burrito to be ready, and we might

commune, without irony, over the cosmic

rightness of this comparison.  It’s hard

to love everybody, we might say knowingly.

Yeah, but don’t you also sometimes feel,

she might ask, like a gangster waiting

for your spiritual burrito to be ready and ready

or not you’re going to get up and fucking

take what’s yours, spiritually speaking?

You know, sometimes I do, I can imagine

myself saying, while feeling concerned

that our meaning-making has gone too far.

How do you make a slogan yours?

I would want to ask her. Is this language

permanently you?  How do you choose?

She would be clearly concerned

at my flimsy commitment to our motto.

I imagine I shouldn’t have stopped.

It is hard to love everybody, I might say again,

before I left her to her burrito and notebook.

The stream of language that makes up the day

hurries on, sweeping the woman and her t-shirt

away, sweeping away me. I don’t resist.


Patrick Swaney lives in Athens, OH, where is completing a PhD in poetry. He is the editor of Quarter After Eight. His work has appeared in Conduit, Indiana Review, The Southeast Review, and elsewhere.