We had an embarrassment of riches this month; each of these poems has so much to recommend it. Our respondents were drawn to two prompts in particular—“She spent a year hallucinating birds” and “It May Be Unhealthy to Drink Tears.” But the approaches to these prompts are as individual as each poet. Erika Ayón makes those birds poignant, a sign of impending familial loss. In Vincent Tromboli’s rendition, the loss is romantic, and the birds morph into four-legged creatures. Sarah Jones agrees it is unhealthy to drink tears; she turns romance on its head, summoning black widows that are reputed to kills their mates after sex. But Dalwyn, the songwriter, brings humor as he spins a rhymed lyric that encourages us to go ahead and drink those tears, not listen to what “they” say.
Ultimately the cash prize will go to Erika Ayón, but the poets who sent us poems made the choice very difficult indeed, and for that we are grateful.
Waiting for Crows
First, the yellow canary died,
when its white bird cage fell
down. His feathers shook
like leaves on a windy day,
blood foamed at its beak.
My mother held him between
her palms, in prayer, until limp,
wrapped him in a red velvet cloth.
Then we found a pigeon’s head
at the front door. The walkway
covered in grey and white plumage.
Its body never found.
Followed by dreams of a dark haired
man who wore a black leather jacket,
turned into a raven, flew above me,
left behind mounds of ashes.
Every morning, for about a month,
a blue jay showed up. He perched itself
on the window seal outside my bedroom,
chirped the saddest bird song.
This all happened, before my father
passed away. Death announcing itself.
The only thing, that I expected,
but never came, were the crows.
Erika Ayón emigrated from Mexico when she was five years old. She grew up in South Central, Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English. She was selected as a 2009 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow and has taught poetry to middle and high school students throughout Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Acentos Review, Strange Cargo Anthology, Orangelandia Anthology, Wide Awake Anthology, Spectrum Anthology, Coiled Serpent Anthology, and Incandescent Mind Literary Journal among others. She is currently a 2016-2017 Community Literature Initiative Fellow. You can find out more about her by visiting www.erikaayon.com.
It May Be Unhealthy to Drink Tears, or She Dreams of Black Widows After Her Engagement
A tiara of black legs scurry along her scalp—
bulbous bodies parade her upper lip—
they pop out her mouth like Death Caps.
When she wakes, she’s a fit
of sounds—bemoaning the mound
of blonde tendrils in her fists.
Silk eggs milky way the brick wall
beside her bed—one bursts,
tiny threads trellis her cheekbones—
a wriggle on the eyelid, she slaps
at the sleeping man against her—
In the doorway, a widow’s big body
in a web—her mate, limp and warm
on carpet. The hall looks like an aisle
adorned by a curtain of cobwebs—
A ceremony of eyes awaits the pluck of her veil.
From the prompt: “she spent a year hallucinating birds”
“The song of loud, empathic, clear chirping notes generally falling in pitch and accelerating; loosely paired or tripled, with little variation.”
~from Wikipedia’s description of the Waterthrush’s vocalization habits
These wild animals
Of the scraps that they leave
How can I figure out
How to chew, deliciously
Without rendering my back
For in the bestiary
Even the bone of a vole
Can take lodge in the throat
Of the wolf who hunted her
Like the leftovers of my body
Planted beneath your bed
Sometimes escaping of their own accord
And other feverishly plucked
Like the buds of flowers
Flicked into thinning grass
For the quiet early-day
I would give that which has accumulated
Between slats of the floor
And legs of kitchen chairs
That which travels with me
Clinging to my hooves
Like passengers staring
Voiceless from a train
The passports tossed in a bin
At some station
Each forgotten face froze in
Mid-phrase: not you, not you, not you
Vincent Trimboli holds a MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia Wesleyan College. In 2016, Trimboli published two chapbooks with Ghost City Press (Condominium Morte and other milkweed diners). His poems can be found in Connotation Press and Still Journal.
Cup ‘O Tears
It may be unhealthy to drink your own tears
Especially in your declining years
When you’re young it is fine as it passes the time
I hear that it helps to dispel all your fears
They taste like honey with a dash of salt
If you drink one too many it is your own damn fault
If one gets old one should drink them cold
You should know better than this I am told
You do not want to keep them bottled inside
Tis better to learn how to swallow your pride
It is such a nominal price to pay
To learn how to live in a much better way
They say drinking your tears is bad for your health
But then again so is most everything else
So drink up while you can, drink up while you may
Do not pay attention to things that they say
Dalwyn is a Canadian songwriter, composer, and musician who lives in Vancouver Washington. A rumour in his own time, a legend in his own mind; he has worked as a woodsman, a farmer, a miner, a grunt, a pit boss, a jeweler and a teacher.