There was much gnashing of teeth as we savored this month’s Reader Poems. Some journal editors have to make these tough choices every day! Amanda Chiado is our winner. She wrote her poem, “Yolk,” in response to the prompt “French artist Abraham Poincheval entombs himself inside giant boulder ‘to find out what the world is.’” She puts us at the center of several worlds in this poem.
But others surprised and delighted us as well. Sara Pirkle Hughes explores the nature of scientific discovery and its impact on how we see ourselves in her poem “Headlines.” Eliza Mimski draws words from other languages that express experiences we cannot in English. Both Chris Toto Zaremba and Eileen Hugo were inspired by the prompt, “Treat Your Plants Like Relatives.” Thanks to everyone who participated. We run a new contest, with new prompts, every month in 2017.
Never do I love soup so
much as when I sit quiet
for long periods of time
wrapped in some version
of earth. And I slurp the
soup and think of the
gurgling of my mother’s
body, her soft pink guts,
the music of her rushing
blood. My mother’s womb
was just as cold.
I have carved out my own
sense of restriction and
resurrection. I hear the
world’s admiration for
mountains through this
burial boulder. Now
hush, it can’t talk over
you. There is heaven in
this hard embrace, cold
mineral whisperings. I
am intimate wreckage
with my cured meats and
no place to relieve
myself. The girl who
spiraled on about her
violin made me feel like I
was rolling down a great
hill like James and his
I sleep in the cold
exhalation that comes
through the rock, and it
sneaks secrets into my
stacked bones. My
grandfather used to joke
with me and tell me I was
born under a rock. His
laugh was a bludgeoning.
I was conceived to be
protected, from my
It is darker within a rock
than I imagined. Slicing
it in two, leaves enough
light that I can imagine
stars. I live in limbo like
a yolk. I think inside out.
I am a stone good for
skipping. Gods, the size
of sand, tell me the
history of how they
became worn to their
core. They assure me that
my mother did love me,
even though she became a
Amanda Chiado lies so well, she lies to hell, pretty bell, penny-well. Amanda is often mist, mud, mistaken for graffiti. Amanda says hello to your halo, from her throne down below.
“Dinosaurs Honked Like Buicks, Says Expert” – Weekly World News, April 12, 1988
When I relay my version of the news,
each entry should be asterisked.
The world’s scientific discoveries
evolve in my memory like casseroles
revolving on a Lazy Susan.
Paleontologists find a fossilized voice box,
perfectly preserved, in some ice field.
The squawker matches the syrinx
of a common mallard. I imagine feather-flapping
dinosaurs quacking to attract a mate.
No wonder they went extinct.
A doctoral student nicknames chill bumps
skin orgasms. He hooks up volunteers
to stereos and glues electrodes to their scalps
to measure their pleasure. A minty-fresh
co-ed gasps and shudders as opera pumps
through her headphones, and an older woman
across the lab says, I’ll hear what she’s hearing.
Cardiologists use Silly Putty to monitor
heart rhythms. They slap it on a man’s chest,
then slowly pull back the sticky pancake.
Hidden in the imprinted chest hair pattern:
evidence of ventricular arrhythmia.
Physicists calculate that humans could walk
on water if a pond was on the moon.
Dung beetles are astronomers, star-charters
relying on the Milky Way to determine
a straight line for their feces-rolling,
so researchers outfit the beetles
with acorn-sized helmets to block starlight
and curb the insects’ type-A personalities.
My version of the truth helps me sleep at night.
I smile in the dark at my cell phone screen
glowing like a rectangular jellyfish
when I read that aquatic dinosaurs gave birth
to live babies. I picture deep sea delivery rooms,
frantic fathers chanting Push. I drift off, dream
of a doctoral student surrendering to frissons,
my fingers skimming his flushed skin
as I remove the sweaty electrodes.
Sara Pirkle Hughes’s first book, The Disappearing Act, won the 2016 Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry and is forthcoming from Mercer University Press. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Reed, Emrys, Atlanta Review, and Atticus Review, among others. She has received writing fellowships from I-Park Foundation, The Anderson Center, and The Hambidge Center.
I always wondered at this obnoxious behavior of mine
How I’d squeeze my grandson till he told me I was hurting him
I just loved him so much I couldn’t help myself
So I sat on my hands when I was around him
And tried to control myself
Then I read about gigil, yes gigil
A word in Tagalog meaning that exquisite urge to squeeze someone –
You know, like babies that you love so dearly
Their cheeks and bottoms and how you want to
Gigil them, giggle them, padiggle them until they cry
I always wondered at this strange behavior of mine
How I solved my problems by walking against the wind
Wind hitting my face and knocking my thoughts right out of me
Wind rushing, wind gushing, wind blushing against my cheeks
Living in San Francisco helps with this
There is a word in Dutch I learned
It’s uitwaaein, yes uitwaaein
The wind slapping you awake, bringing you forward into yourself
So you cannot help but feel alive and good
At least for a little while
I always wondered at this intriguing behavior of mine
How I’d feel so good after writing a poem
Boiling the words down just so
Chipping away at the meaning until it gelled
Grabbing the syllables and kneading them together into something new
There is a Chinese word I learned
It’s called yuan bei, yes yuan bei
It means a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment
You finish something and it’s just right
You cannot make it any better and you’re happy
I always wondered at these behaviors of mine
Eliza Mimski lives in San Francisco and love wordplay, word games, and new words. Poetry is a way to get to the true meaning of things.
Treat your plants like relatives
Mother Earth said with a smile.
Show how much you love them
They will be with you for a while.
Father Sky brought out the sun
And also rain to help them grow.
The branches reached up to touch the moon
And their roots got strong below.
I did my best to prune and care
For all the plants I love.
With the help of Mother Earth below
And Father Sky above.
Chris Toto Zaremba has Fun With Words, performing at every open mic and coffee house south of Boston that accepts the Art of Spoken Word. She published her first children’s Chistmas book, ‘Angel of the Harbor’ in 2016, hosts a Poetry Circle in Duxbury, Ma. and is a member of the Scituate Cultural Council.
Treat your plants like relatives
My plants thrive
not because I dote on them
I give them not quite enough.
They thrive because they crave more
always wanting, never satisfied.
They vie for my attention.
I withhold, then give in measured drops
making them try harder.
Eileen Hugo is a poet. She is retired and doing all the things she loves. She has been published in the anthologies Southern Breezes and The Baby Boomer Birthright published by Poet Works Press, and most recently, The Taste Of Ink, a collaboration of poets from Mid-Coast Maine. She also served time as the Poetry Editor for The Houston Literary Review. In April of 2015 her book, Not Too Far, was published.