2019 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry
Poetry Judge: Ginger Murchison
Ginger Murchison is the author of a scrap of linen, a bone from Press 53. She earned her MFA from Warren Wilson College, and, together with Thomas Lux, helped found POETRY at TECH at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she served as associate director for five years and as one of its Visiting McEver Chairs in Poetry. She serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of The Frost Place, consults faculty for the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, and is Editor in Chief of the acclaimed Cortland Review.
winner and runners-up
First Prize: “peaches’ by Caroline White of Raleigh, NC
Runners-Up: “If Love Is a Small-Town Blessing” and “Glenwood” by Emily Ransdell of Camas, WA
Congratulations to our finalists!
“Childhood” by Antonio Addessi of New York, NY
“Night Train to Paris” by Gary Beaumier of Grafton, WI
“Madre” by Laura Foley of South Pomfret, VT
“Self-Portrait with Litany of Saints” by Karen Kovacik of Indianapolis, IN
“Flashbacks in a Bottle” by Ellaraine Lockie of Sunnyvale, CA
Winner 2019 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry
$1,000 First Prize
Followed by Author Bio
i’ve wondered how the tumbleweed looks graceful
stumbling into itself, almost taking flight, but then always
staying here like it knows responsibility, like it is tethered by love
to this earthly life. i read the pages
that the previous book owner has dog-eared, the poem about peaches
by li-young lee. the blossom, impossible blossom, he writes.
how the peach is more than the peach,
more than its flesh and its flavor,
it is the shade it endured, the sunlight that melted onto the fruit,
the days and nights of its nativity, sweet impossible blossom.
grains of salt can catch light and glitter, never even knowing.
i watch them in my kitchen, forgetting my body,
and i feel anonymous like the moon.
my father was religious about using the parking brake
and now i reach for it, too. it almost feels like someone there, warm
and quiet, the small company of it. and where my father was,
now just the stillness like the unpopulated parts of north carolina,
the flat expanding farmland
that mimics eternity.
~ ~ ~
Judge’s note: “peaches” is a bona fide prize-winning poem. The first surprise comes when the first line points to the “graceful stumbling” of the tumbleweed as it “almost” takes flight but then doesn’t, “like it knows responsibility.” How do you have a better time in a poem than that? Among other reasons to praise “peaches,” I find particular delight deeper in the poem when the peach is “the shade it endured, the sunlight that melted” onto it. Even a few grains of salt make the speaker “feel anonymous like the moon,” and the parking brake “feels like someone there . . . warm and quiet” in the space “where my father was” that is now a “stillness like the unpopulated parts of north carolina,” that flatland that looks like “eternity.” Everything in the poem looks like or seems like or feels like another kind of “impossible blossom.” Even the absence of capital letters makes the poem unfold like a blossom.”
Caroline White is a poet and educator living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She received a BA in English Literature at the University of Maryland and pursued graduate work in creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work explores the connectivity of grief and place through confessional lyricism.
Runners-Ups (two poems) 2019 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry
“If Love Is a Small-Town Blessing”
Followed by Author Bio
If Love Is a Small-Town Blessing
Then bless the small town
that loved me, the women who watched
behind home-sewn curtains,
who tracked my whereabouts
when my mother could not.
Bless the playground and park,
the asphalt ball court, the picnic pavilion
that nightly drew us like moths to light.
Bless our initials carved on the table there,
the pilfered beers and sloe gin.
Bless Ohio. Before meth and Fentanyl,
factories still cranking out appliances
Bless the men and women who labored there,
polished and soldered. Riveted and drilled.
The class secretary and the running back,
that boy whose name I can’t remember now.
My mother knew his mother,
but neither knew what to say to the other
when twenty years later he OD’d.
Bless the county roads we drove for kicks,
two-lanes laid between corn fields
like stitches on a quilt. So straight
you could cut the lights and drive
through the dark on a dare. You could roll
a joint while you steered with your knees.
You could stop your car just about
anywhere then. Wild asparagus grew
in the ditches. Someone always had a pocket knife
and everyone knew the rule.
How you needed to leave a few stalks
standing, how it wouldn’t grow back
if you took it all.
In three days, she’d be dead, but
on Monday my mother rallied,
woke from her coma and asked
for her weekly shampoo and set.
After that, she sat by her bed
for dinner, hair freshly curled,
the cannulas removed, for a while,
from her nose.
On her tray, string beans
and meatloaf, a slice of pie.
For the longest time I watched her,
followed her fork’s slow journey,
its tremulous lift, then the long pause,
food falling back to the plate.
When I could bear it no longer,
I reached over, loaded it up
with pie. Scent of cinnamon
and soft fall apples,
crust like heaven,
a dab of whipped cream.
I raised it to her mouth, which opened,
translucent as a bird’s.
She chewed and swallowed,
then opened again.
We were alone,
among the caregivers and paid attendants,
the hovering nurse.
The years remained unforgiven.
A mother, a daughter,
doing what we had to do.
~ ~ ~
Emily Ransdell’s work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry, River Styx and elsewhere. Ransdell has been a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize as well as first runner-up for the Patricia Cleary Miller New Letters Prize and the Janet B. McCabe Award from Ruminate Magazine. She lives in Camas, Washington.