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—
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,
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.”
three-hundred miles away
you’ll go to bars by yourself—sidelong glances turning
into drinks, into touching, into Bryn Mawr girls.
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
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.
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.
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.
nothing to declare
in the carry-on bag