2020 Best of the Net Nominations
Please join us in congratulating Escape Into Life’s poetry nominees for Best of the Net 2020, for work published between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. Click the links in the list below to revisit the poems as they first appeared here in solo or multi-poet features. The poems are also provided as a grouping below for your convenience.
Jessy Randall, “James Miranda Barry / Margaret Ann Bulkley (ca. 1789-1865)” on June 3, 2020
Yvonne Zipter ,“Cleaning Fish, Post Lake, July 1941” on May 6, 2020 in our Mother’s Day feature
Erica Goss, “The Ocean” on February 12, 2020 in our Valentine’s Day feature
Matthew Murrey, “Private Music” on January 1, 2020
Alicia Hoffman, “ Self-Portrait as Alexa w| Lowercase Apocalypse” on November 13, 2019
Karen Craigo, “Ex Ornithomancer” on September 4, 2019 in a birds-in-poetry-and-art feature
James Miranda Barry / Margaret Ann Bulkley (ca. 1789-1865)
Things would be so much easier
if I had a husband. The cuff-links
do me in every time. Had I
a husband, or a wife – a wife! – dressing
like a man each morning would be
less of a chore. With a wife on my arm,
I might not get called a sissy. Or, if a husband,
we’d be two fellows about town,
smoking and telling crude jokes.
The secret of me: I’ll keep it ’til death.
I’ll try to keep it even longer,
with careful instructions, but
words will fail me and I’ll be found out.
Cleaning Fish, Post Lake, July 1941
I always thought the photo of my grandfather
and his brother, with the scarred wooden table
between them on which they are gutting fish,
was about them, about the scarred woman
that came between them, but realize now
the photo is about my mother, whose arms
are no wider than the perch her uncle takes a knife to,
whose eyes are level with the metal tub on the table
where the men throw the entrails, her overalls hanging
loosely on her small frame, her shoes invisible
in the duff of leaves and pine needles, a froth of curls
around the tipped cup of her face, who isn’t afraid
of the knives, the blood, the slick viscera, the bright rain
of fish scales, who isn’t afraid to look at death.
Lying here with you it’s hard to remember
the things we said to each other
not long ago
waiting for our hearts to stop pounding
we talk about the decline of the honeybee
your voice rumbles through your chest
on my nightstand, a card, a boy and a girl holding hands
you gave me this when I was sick and wanted
something to change, something wild to move me from the bed
I recall the surface of the ocean, how it looks from an airplane
smooth as the skin of a child, opaque as the cover of a book
no sign of the shark who never stops moving
not even in sleep
Though I nestled
his head between my knees,
I didn’t get his name and never will
see him again. He was a few steps
ahead, lost in music only he could hear
as he walked into the crosswalk
not seeing, not hearing Watch Out!
zooming at him on a bicycle
that hit him full on, full speed,
dropped him like a sack to the street.
The cyclist, flipped and scraped,
got up pissed, but swallowed
his curses when he saw the man
flat on his back, not moving,
earbuds knocked right out of his ears.
The crowd around him said Don’t
move him! as I knelt and cupped
his head in my hands, leaned in
and told him a ton of lies
like You’ll be fine. It’s okay.
He was breathing, but not speaking.
His left ear was leaking
a little blood—a bad sign.
Soon, paramedics showed up,
slid a backboard under him
and carried him off. Out of the blue,
I’ll think of him and wonder
how he’s doing. Maybe he’s fine,
or maybe he suffers vertigo, or ringing,
or radiance followed by the chuck
of pain clamping its hold on his head.
I wonder if he still walks the city
with music shielding him?
I could use some of that these days
so I could walk all brisk and confident
the way he did—not consumed
by what might (or might not)
be coming my way.
Self-Portrait as Alexa w| Lowercase Apocalypse
“Isolated and Unseen, Yemenis eat leaves to stave off starvation” – AP News
I refuse to answer to today,
as today I am too much
of this world, its data
crunching and innumerous
wars. The word apocalypse
is derived from the Greek,
meaning to uncover,
to no longer conceal.
I, for one, understand
word’s powers trump
any image, and though
it is dark I can see clearly
enough I am but one entity
stuck like a pin on a line grid
latitude 43.156578, longitude
-77.608849. Today’s casualties?
57, 202 and counting. The moment
I am asked the answer is already
irrelevant. It goes up like weather
balloons in the Middle East.
Today in Dhamar it is 76 degrees
with a 56 percent chance of rain.
Aadira is with her sisters.
They walk past their village
into old rows of coffee fields.
Distant minarets announce
the low music of daily prayer
and somewhere inside of me
there are all these children
gathering the thin leaves off
the orchard’s last fruiting trees.
He thinks one time he spotted
a frigate bird by the cove, way
off course, but maritime winds
might pull anything his way.
He shows me where he saw
the mandarin duck, the albatross,
though all I see are gulls that may
be terns. When we go to the site
of the famous painting, a woman
dragging herself home through grain,
the place is so charged we stay
quiet and listen as wind parts
the descendants of her grass
and we breathe in salt and pine,
and then I see him point: above us
two birds, a pair, circle together
on a kettle of air, and they seem
to acknowledge each other, dip a wing
in deference or salute, white heads
and tails giving them away, and I see
the sky as he does: how anything
might fly our way in time.
Many thanks to Sundress Publications
for supporting online poets with the Best of the Net award anthology!
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