2019 Best of the Net Nominations
2019 Best of the Net Nominations
for work published between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019
Please join us in congratulating Escape Into Life’s poetry nominees for Best of the Net. Click the links to revisit the poems when they first appeared here in solo or multi-poet features. Many thanks to Sundress Publications for supporting online poets with the Best of the Net award anthology!
List of Nominees:
“An Apology to Beth March” June 26, 2019
“Notre Dame” June 12, 2019
“War Poem As I Nurse the Baby” May 12, 2019
“My Mother’s First Winter in Germany” May 8, 2019
“The Inheritance” May 8, 2019
“I Confide in Sylvia Plath About My Divorce” April 24, 2019
An Apology to Beth March
There are many Beths in the world…
—Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
There is a world where Beth March is a politician,
the first woman elected to the Massachusetts legislature,
and there is a world where she is a concert pianist
who tours in every state and most of the territories
and Europe. There is a world where Beth March
has three lovers at once and a world where she has four
and a world where she has none, ever, and good luck to the man
who tries to change that. In one world Beth March is jeweler,
and in one a librarian, and in one world she is a low-level art forger
and she is never caught. Beth March is a bootlegger,
Beth March is a suffragette, she takes Daisy along to rallies,
tells her to run when the cops come to break them up
but Beth March doesn’t run. Beth March spends the night
in jail. There is a world where Beth March is a mason,
where she is a midwife, a botanist, a teacher, an actor,
a mother, all of these things at once, or none of them,
something else, something more. There is a world
where everything is the same, where Beth March is quiet
and good and dying but where she is also fucking angry
about it, where she writes furious rants in a journal
she makes Jo promise to burn, where she doesn’t trust Jo
to burn it so she feeds it to the fire herself, page by page
slipped through the garret grate while her fingers are still steady
enough. There is a world where Beth March dies and that is the end
of the story and there is a world where the story ends but Beth
My daughter and I traveled without our family,
visiting the week before the church burned.
We stayed in a good hotel on the Left Bank
and walked everywhere—Deyrolle, Ladurée —
all the places a father wants his daughter to see.
We spent a morning in the church. Sarah told
the story of Joan of Arc, the French heroine burned
at the stake by the English at the age of nineteen.
We lit a candle beneath her monument.
After we came home Palm Sunday, I told friends
if our Paris trip could have been any sweeter,
I didn’t know how. Then, when the news came,
with images of the conflagration and the spire collapsing,
Sarah found me taking sanctuary in my study.
She had her phone and showed me a picture—
the floor of the nave in ruins with piles
of charred roof beams, ashes, and broken stones.
“But look,” she said, “the altar’s gold cross still stands.”
She quickly took the phone back and asked
if I knew the French word apiculteurs.
She told me it’s the word for beekeepers
and beekeepers maintained colonies of bees
on the roof of Notre Dame! “The honey of
the Holy Spirit?” I asked. She said honeybees
thrive on many roofs in Paris, and showed
the old train station of the Musée d’Orsay,
the gilded dome of the Opéra Garnier,
and even the glass roof of the Grand Palais.
The wrath of the fire could not be stopped
and the flames roared, but the thick black smoke
simply made the bees drunk and sleepy. When
they awoke, it was a new day, and the bees were alive.
War Poem as I Nurse the Baby
On TV, the planes, the bodies falling.
The smoke of steel and bone that rose for months.
And his scarlet cry in the night, which I felt
as a sick loosening across the backs of my thighs.
The roar of fighter jets patrolling the skies
above our tidy street, and the roar
of my heart, suddenly feral, clutched
by the curve of his plum-round cheek
as he slept. I thought nothing would ever surprise me again.
Not the president saying, We’ll smoke ‘em out,
or the story of another mother crouched low
in her own house, one hand on her baby’s hot mouth.
Not the soldiers who kicked (but gently, they said)
the baby around like a ball while his mother begged
at their feet. Not the way—at the store, at the park,
in the kitchen with the news on—my milk let down
its tiny fires at the sound
of any baby crying, anywhere.
My Mother’s First Winter in Germany
My mother never thought she’d survive
that first winter in the slave labor camps.
She had no coat, no hat, no gloves,
just what she was wearing when the Germans
came to her home and killed my grandma
and took my mother to the labor camps.
A German guard saved her life there.
He saw her struggling to dig beets
in the frozen earth with her hands,
and he asked her if she could milk a cow.
She said, “Yes,” and he took her to the barn
where the cows were kept and raped her there.
Later, the cows kept her from freezing
and gave my mother warm milk to drink.
There is a photo
in our first few
when we lived
in the woods
and shared meat
with the neighbors
in both arms
like an infant
Your eyes then
were so bright
had an instinct
Over the years
the cold sting
of her hand
across my face
Then I said them
and said them
just to punish her
I was five
when my grandfather
took me out
to the farm
where his brother
and led me around
of a horse
Grandpa was so
gentle with me
and with the mare
who seemed half
from the way she
nuzzled his hair
who do you think
taught my mother
If I loved you once
I love you more now
that has made them
a little tired
This is a story
a cycle breaks
about how you
there are better rivers
in which we can
our ancestors’ rage
This is a story
about our confident
who know nothing
of pain except
the hairbrush through
As for me—
I know nothing
of what you have
to get us here
But listen: I am
reach up through late
A good man
in the hospital
with a stroke
Our new baby
would have been
about a month old
the gaudy aisles
of the super center
my hand against
the small of
Our girls alternate
requests for all things
about the nature
It feels so much
like coming home
when I stop
to press my face
into your hair
I Confide in Sylvia Plath about My Divorce
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
—“Mirror,” Sylvia Plath
I read at an open mic for the first time
in April of 1988 and immediately
afterward, left for spring break with
my friend Melissa. We were going
to stay with her family in Columbus,
Ohio, but stopped off in Chicago first,
arriving late at night to sleep at her
friend’s apartment. This is the one
story that I want to tell Sylvia
because I was sick that night and
spent the hours awake in a strange
living room, reading and rereading
her poems in the two books I’d brought
with me. And I understand now—
the open window letting in cool air
and the noises of an unfamiliar street—
that I was sick with the aftermath
of power, feverish from hearing my words
become real in a room full of people.
And even though only a few things
had happened to me then that I wanted
to store in poems, I knew that this
was where I would always keep them.