ChicagoPoetry.com is extremely pleased to announce the Winners of the 2004 Frieda Stein Fenster Memorial Award for poetry. Forty-eight entries of poetry were judged by three esteemed Chicago poets: Al DeGenova, Publisher of After Hours Magazine; Andrea Change, Programming Committee Member of The Guild Complex; and famous Chicago poet David Hernandez. The judges were not allowed to see the names of the poets; therefore, the selection of the winning poems was based entirely on the merits of the poetry itself. Judges were allowed to select the winners entirely free from any outside influences.
All three judges expressed that the judging process was difficult, due to the high quality of all the poetry submitted into this contest, and they spent many hours in individual and group sessions considering all entries. Though we'd like to award everyone who entered the contest, the rules of the contest insist we choose the three most qualified poems. In addition to the three winners, two honorable mentions were selected by the judges.
The first, second and third place winners will receive their award certificates and prize checks at the April 7th Guild Complex show, Chicago Poetry Uncensored, where each poet may read the winning poem as part of the program. The Honorable Mention poets, by coincidence, are also featured in the Guild Complex event. Winners who are unable to attend the Guild Complex show may request their awards by mail, to be received no later than April 9th, 2004.
The first place winner will be awarded her own page here at ChicagoPoetry.com. In the near future, we will set up a page for her, with her own link on the homepage, and she may submit to it or subtract from it, as she wishes, over the course of the next year.
The rules of the contest are archived here.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the winners are:
from The Body at Fifty:
THIS BODY REFLECTS ON THE FUTURE
On being diagnosed with
breast cancer at 51
One day the Body will look in the mirror
and see her image slowly turn black,
her face erased
as if smeared by God's thumb,
a sign on her chest in letters of blood:
"FOR RENT: Historic property, built 1952.
Previous owner a little old lady.
Many rooms never used."
One day the Body will look in the mirror
and see a woman who is
no longer there,
swaddled like a mummy in crime scene tape,
encircled by a trio of lamprey-mouthed crones
with scissors instead of hands.
One day the Body will look in the mirror
and see a woman who is not herself,
a woman made of nothing
but clacking bones,
outré in a Schiaparelli gown of cobwebs
and a wig of platinum-blonde worms.
Today the Body looks in her mirror
and glimpses a woman she has not yet met,
her neck festooned with a garland of breasts
plucked from women who no longer need them,
a woman who launders rotting nightgowns
in a bathtub filled with blood,
who beckons with gestures vague as mist
but fingers sharp as scythes,
a woman who is still half a world away
but whose dark van is cruising toward the airport.
He asked me how often I pray
this God-squad motherfucker
like three minutes
on his knees
makes him an expert
a true apostle
of the onetruefaith
of the moment
is to save my soul
is the secret handshake
that will somehow get him
into heaven and get me bounced
like somehow God hears
it better if it's loud enough
that other people notice
he looks at me
with this rolodex
behind his eyes
of all the reasons
my faith should
replicate his faith
of all the ways
and he wants an answer
I want to tell him
that knees are for blowjobs
and churches are buildings
want to take him
to the nearest all-night
dispenser of generic
Christianity and show him
how the pictures on the wall
are just a blend of Ted Nugent
and Charlie Manson
want to tell him
about how they
hid from Herod
in Egypt, Africa
and make him tell
me the difference
between black and white
want to take his crucifix
necklace, dangle it
in front of him
make him explain
why after two thousand years
Christ is still on this cross
but that's not what he asked me
I want to answer his bracelet not him
want to tell him what Jesus would do
want to tell him that Jesus
was homeless and hungry
with dirt on his feet
and under his nails
that Jesus knew prostitutes
(although not in the Biblical sense)
that Christ was a communist
that Pontius George W McCarthy Hitler Ashcroft Bush
was just doing his Job
with the full approval
of the church
but he didn't ask me that either
he asked me if I pray
so I say yes
every breath is a prayer
and if you haven't been
moved you haven't been
every inhalation is life
entering the body
is man from dust
is love at its basest
is an opportunity
and you want me
to waste that shit
on now I lay me
every poem is a prayer
is a divine breath out
is my offering to you
because you are God's
creature and I want to touch
you, want to make you feel
what I feel, want to communicate
more than words, want to
give you my world
in stanzas and line breaks
want to know that someone
every kiss is a prayer
is inhaling flesh
is me breathing you
breathing me breathing you
How often do I pray?
Every breath is God.
I Google my name
and come up with yours—the exact reverse.
I think what if we went to school together,
what confusion there'd be at roll call:
Ellen Wade, Wade Ellen..
But you're older, a '51 baby,
a country boy from Rocky Mount, North
Carolina. And you're dead,
killed in action in 1972, when the chopper
you're co-piloting on a rescue mission
is hit by enemy fire and crashes
into a small island on the Dak Poko River.
When I think back to 1972
I see a high school sophomore
in a black-watch plaid skirt getting high
and I am ashamed
I didn't know enough about the war
that took your life.
But when I return to your death date,
Was it Easter, April 23, 1972—
I can picture them stranded at the water tower
and imagine they wanted to signal
and you, navigating over
the northwestern edge of the Tanh Canh
base camp in Kontum Province,
wanted to save them.
But the enemy was waiting
That day was without resurrection in Florida too
where I was trying to escape the grief
of my Mother's death the month earlier,
consoling myself by piercing my ears,
eating peanut M&Ms, sleeping away
on a pull-out bed, and going
to a bar for the first time.
Smokey Robinson played.
I'd like to think my grief was for you too.
That somehow I knew, oceans away,
someone I shared something with
died. But to be honest, even now
I find you only when looking for myself.
I'm still that self-centered sophomore,
just a different self,
and you're dead now for some thirty years.
Then we were miles apart,
even on my radar. But today I found you
just beyond the periphery,
and I want to wave, want to say
I am sorry and ask your forgiveness.
--Ellen Wade Beals
Ivan and Ida
To the painter Ivan Albright
Ivan never pampered or prettied with paint.
All flesh fails,
Falls into thunderous pulp,
Like the sky before a storm,
Whipped by trees,
Beaten black and blue.
All bodies buckle.
Old age comes in so many colors.
A nose is only as good as an overripe pear,
Rolling off the grocer's heap,
Bruised and battered at your foot.
All muscle emaciates.
Ivan painted Ida, no cheeky youth pickled pink,
But overstarched like old lace,
Brittle like weathered wicker,
And tired of old flesh inattentive,
Not watching the way it gets pushed into Shoes Girdles Brassieres.
Ivan painted Ivan an old man eighteen times,
Heavy-headed, wearing a pancake of a tweed hat,
Bare-headed, sprouting sparse hairs like weeds in snow,
Hard-headed, in spectacles, to better see the decomposition in his composition,
Bandage-headed, lastly, in hospital,
With a crooked mouth stroke struck,
Flesh merely marks upon a page,
and color a shrunken spectrum of aged vinegars,
the institutional shades.
In the end, the body as absent as the page is present,
Ivan painted his own eyes as cat's paws—
Still making their padded print,
Still pleading for vision.
--Cherie Caswell Dost
Room 118, Arizona
Even now, her edges are blackening
under his tongue, the words livid
in her mouth, impossible.
The skies tonight are deceitful,
promise rain, deliver nothing.
This is their way.
Yesterday, she dropped like a dim
into a crack, fell asleep
mid-afternoon, hurtling toward
Tucson, dreamt of burned-out
houses, intricate arsons.
He tells her she is never
quite as beautiful as she is
on her knees, the space,
the abstraction of her body, opaque.
She writes villanelles about other lovers
on the skin of his back, their history
annotated by gestures of supplication,
like that time she dragged her fingernail
across a fairytale, and out fell
a dozen girls, wide-eyed,
red-lipped, april in their blood.
A palm reader in Texas warns
her of conduits and spells,
the darkness that puddles
like lake water in her mind,
the moths that know
only summer, nothing else.
She grows incautious, notes
the scorpions scurrying
beneath the bed, strands
of her hair, stained sheets.
Vacancy glows, a thousand
cigarettes, through the shears.
She forgets how early
the night falls here—
how early it fails.
Please stay tuned to ChicagoPoetry.com in the upcoming months for details regarding our next contest.