2015 Poetry Contest Finalists

 
Congratulations to the four finalists in this year’s poetry contest. Our judges will select the contest winner, who will receive $750 and publication in the autumn issue of U of T Magazine. But we need you to help us choose the “People’s Choice” poem. Please read the finalists and choose your favourite! Voting closes August 7.


 

Alphabet murals on a Philly wall

“If you were here, I’d be home now.”
~City of Philadelphia MuralArtsProgram

spell out me rattling off, “goat cheese, pistachio,
honey, you wanna make a pizza?” You crunching cans of
soda water, Acme-brand, walking into the other room.

Banal things—beating you at spatial reasoning, piled-up paintings
in the basement, fill-in-the-blanks sex, a sure thing—
take precedence
over
Uncle Jimmy drunk on Boxing day,
Christie’s daughter locked up for possession, my fugue state
in the presence of cousin-thank-god-I-forgot-her-name
corrupting my childhood love of witches, of Chuck’s check-out-
stares, of you grabbing my ass up the stairs,
refuge
when you bite my lip in bed, tell me, “Turn off the lights,”
pull me across your chest, chiastic—I’m leaving the next day.

On the high-speed-line home, alphabet sentiments
on a white-brick backdrop flash by like paint-smock-shorts
dropped around basketball shoes, “Miss you too—miss you too
often not to love you.”
Over
three-hundred miles away
you’ll go to bars by yourself—sidelong glances turning
into drinks, into touching, into Bryn Mawr girls.
I’ll set
the ring you spent thirty hours sanding against mom’s story
of the guy she could have married. If you were here
you’d ask for a Lager, I’d order a seven-dollar sour beer.

 
 

Approach to the Matter

He identifies the lesion
with a permanent marker,
impregnates a receptive swab

cleans the surface
with antiseptic solution, centre
to periphery.

Scalpel pinched between
thumb and forefinger, the other hand
creates three-point traction

to immobilize, and he slices—
an elliptical incision
along relaxed tension lines

pressing through epidermis,
partly through dermis, without jerking, sawing,
or secondary damage.

Excessive undermining is harmful
surrounding tissues are pushed aside
with tips of blunt scissors.

He excises the problematic matter
with toothed forceps.
Suturing begins—

a curved needle loaded
into a driver, piercing
one side of the skin, the other,

to approximate the surface,
reduce trauma. He knows his actions
will leave a scar.
 
 

Somnolent Table

The earthquake has shivered
all the furniture out of place

except for one small console table
that has stubbornly clung

to the half-wall of the staircase,
its four legs refusing to move.

Or perhaps it’s merely asleep,
the way we all were that night,

unprepared for the tremor,
for the indifferent shrug of tectonic plates,

the cracking of the window panes,
the midnight howling

of Mrs. Mancini’s schnauzer next door,
its tight, fierce body straining to bite.

Our one sleepy table, with its fake
hurricane lamp and dusty snapshots

has become a new shrine,
the wood altar for small sacrifices—

my husband’s wedding ring
my daughter’s cracked cell phone.

No tabloid miracles here,
just small, removable pieces, finally still.
 
 

[untitled]

nothing to declare
father’s ashes
in the carry-on bag