Winner and Runner Up

ARS POETICA WINNERS:

 

First place:

 

Practice

 

Over there the window

shows morning—gray sky 

proves the earth has been turning.                            

 

Here nothing moves. A cat. 

A child asleep. A pot of tea. 

The closed cover of my writing journal.

 

I do the tai chi form Preparation… Beginning…

all the way to Single Whip.     

It’s all I know.  

 

Assume the Spirit of the Crane, the instructor said, 

but the shadow I cast was broken. When is a crane—?

When is unbalance flying? 

 

I asked a man what he does for a living and 

he said, I used to be a poet. Why used? 

Because I am no longer writing. 

 

I am a poet not writing. Days of not 

writing turn into weeks, months,

until the taste of poet 

 

is a wet pill on my tongue, writer

a remarkable piece of clothing I wouldn’t 

even know where to buy.

 

My child hits her head and sick 

soaks my non-writing hands that hold her to my body.

Her breath is small cranes flying.

 

When is a poet—?

I slice onions, comb the cat, teach a child

to erase words without ripping.

 

My hands cup water to my baby’s head. 

In the window—gray sky. Tomorrow

I will start again from nothing.

 

Rasma Haidri grew up in Tennessee and makes her home on the arctic seacoast of Norway. She is the author of As If Anything Can Happen (Kelsay Books, 2017) and three textbooks. She holds a M.Sc. in reading from the University of Wisconsin and is a current MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her writing has been widely anthologized and published in literary journals including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Muzzle, Sycamore Review, and Fourth Genre. Her awards include the Southern Women Writers Association emerging writer award in creative non-fiction, the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters & Science poetry award, a Best of the Net nomination and Vermont Studio residency. She’s a reader for the Baltic Residency program in Sweden. Visit her at www.rasma.org.

 

Runner-up:

Ode to a lost poem

 

Well, look at you, unexpectedly at the door,

a bit spare, five o’clock shadow, soft jawline, blurred

dark wells under the eyes, graying at the temple

where I sacrifice my hours—haven’t seen you in forever.

 

You remember the long nights, the endless revisiting,

the close dance of erasure, rearrangement, jazzed

vocabulary, electric lines leaving us exhausted, tearing

hair, the crumpled sheets. Couldn’t tell anymore

if any of it was good.

 

Ashamed to say, I forgot you existed, consigned

to the B-list, false starts, filed away in that mental closet

with lost socks, no lingering melancholy over our parting

 

dalliances not worth mentioning with meter, rhyme,

the Old English line, thesauri—then you escaped

well-ordered folders and piles, rose out of oblivion

into fresh light. Let bygones be bygones. I strip you down

 

word by word to the details, excise clutter. There will be

tears, bandages ripped away, fresh wardrobe

and you’re whole, ready to be introduced to my crowd,

good enough to flash about town, take you home

to read, over and over.

 

Eileen Mattmann’s poetry has appeared in Millwork, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, The Wild Word, Red Cedar Review, Kindness Anthology II, and several other journals. She is a retired teacher and is only beginning to get used to calling herself a poet.