Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.
Leo Connellan Poetry Award Winner
Even now, I don’t understand how it gets inside
the bottle. I saw one yesterday, in the antique store
where we used to window shop.
I always wanted to go inside, but you said
it’s better not to rummage in the past.
Last time we met, you were taking on gin
like a ship takes on water. Funny how ships
are called “she,” how they give
the impression of standing upright
just before they go down.
I picture you drifting from bottle to bottle,
glass life rafts that barely keep you afloat.
Now that you’re gone I inherit
your love of liquid pleasures, give myself
to it every night like a courtesan.
I hear the last call, crawl inside the bottle,
your faded echo still slurring my name.
Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize Winner
Room in New York, 1932
–after Edward Hopper
See for yourself––look through the open window.
Come closer, as if you were invited. My husband
buries his head in the newspaper. Tell him I’m here,
I wear the red dress because loneliness is quiet.
If nothing else, the room is honest. Between us,
only the bare wooden table. And the door. Outside,
the ledge and window meet, greet you like a black-edged
announcement. I turn away, one finger poised
on the keys of the piano, threaten to break the silence
that fills the room. I could reach for the door.
Instead I face away, as if I am not looking
for a way out, as if you couldn’t imagine my story.
Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award Honorable Mention
I Want to Meet an Old Hippie
Old hippies don’t die, they just lie low
until the laughter stops and their time
comes round again. ––Joseph Gallivan
I want to meet an old hippie, the kind of guy
my mother used to date when her hair
was long and straight. I see him in those faded
polaroids, tinged with ochre over time––
snapshots she hides in an old cigar box
in the basement, amid ticket stubs, flyers reminiscing
sit-ins, love-ins, half a reefer stashed
between thumb-worn pages of her diary.
Tie-dyed and blurry-eyed, he picked her up
in a Volkswagon bus, neon peace signs
sprayed from a can, hair like Jesus, man,
blowin’ in the wind. She wore that brown suede
vest, the one that still hangs in her closet,
fringed and studded, and bell-bottom jeans
that hugged her hips like sky hugs moon,
love beads around her neck.
I want to go to the Village, or the Haight,
and wait on the corner. He’ll stroll out,
like Dylan, slinging his folk guitar, humming
the summer of love inside his head where everything
is beautiful. Tell him I’m all grown up now, know how
to light an incense stick. He’ll look for a match––
I’ll say that’s me babe. I’ll be the girl
with flowers in her hair.
––for Dorothy Z.
In those days your parents didn’t always
keep you––or your sisters. In the 1930’s
they gave you away like cheap dishes
doled out in movie theaters. Ten cents
for a movie and a porcelain plate. Forgotten
on laps, they often fell, cracked or chipped,
got left behind. Odd pieces everywhere.
Disposable––like you, shipped to aunts, uncles,
or the Klingberg Children’s Home, New Britain,
someone who could afford to put food on your
plate. No questions asked. Poverty spawning
an incomplete set, siblings were separated,
sent away by bus or train––Maine, Connecticut,
Kansas––no yellow brick road, no wizard,
no ruby slippers to click together, wish yourself
I Shelve My Lovers Alphabetically
Side by side they fight and bicker
over me, the p’s, pathetic losers, pushing
the s’s, those selfish men who never share.
I treat them like broken toys, boys I used
to love, now useless, taking up space.
I try to forget their flaws, or why I needed
them, the i’s, insensitive and insecure,
the j’s, jealous of the b’s––those bad boys
who keep me coming back, a few to whom
I almost said I do, when I didn’t.
And so it goes, the g’s groping everyone,
the f’s fighting back, s’s smooth and smug.
I watch the good kissers rub shoulders
with the liars and losers. I wonder
where I found them. Sometimes
I cross-reference, move them around
just because I can. I sort them out,
touch them inappropriately. I can’t let go.
I should make up my mind, decide
who stays. Instead, I keep them all.
By the time I get to the y’s I run out
of space, no room for you,
the one I’ve not yet met, the one
to whom I might have said yes, oh yes.
It wasn’t like that.
I watch those old home movies,
see my mother shot
through an eight-millimeter lens.
She smiles like mother-of-pearl,
kissing my uncles
and aunts on the holidays ––
kissing, always kissing and shining
She’s dressed like a star
in those fifties clothes,
on her way to becoming
vintage. I see her
in slow motion, wonder
what might have happened
had she caught up
to Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan.
Instead she had babies,
cooked meals, folded laundry.
Then worked in the factory.
I don’t remember her
kissing me. It wasn’t like that.
Some nights I turn
off the lights, rewind the reel
on that big metal wheel and see
her delicate light filtering through
like dust in the heat and haze
of an old Kodak projector
that never showed
the way it really was.