2009 Split This Rock Poetry Contest Winners
Benefits Split This Rock Poetry Festival - Washington, DC, March 10-13, 2010
$1,000 awarded for poems of provocation & witness
Patricia Smith, Judge
Split This Rock is pleased to announce the winners and share the winning poems of our second annual poetry contest, judged by poet and National Book Award finalist Patricia Smith. The 1st-place winner, Teresa J. Scollon, will be invited to read winning poem at Split This Rock Poetry Festival in March 2010. Jenny Browne (second place) and Demetrice Anntia Worley (third place) will receive free registration at the 2010 festival.
We are very grateful to this year's judge Patricia Smith and to all who supported Split This Rock by entering the contest. It is heartening to see the poets continuing to write their poems for a better world. Thank you!
To Y. Thao
Look how you've carried these small bodies
across the ocean, looking for the next one
to hear the story. Look how gently you laid
these children down at the fire where stories are told.
I hear it again: how the choppers lifted
out of Saigon, cut away the desperate arms
and fled, how the Hmong fled in small groups
of families or fighters, trekking across
verdant Laos, leaving behind their ambushed
precious dead as they raced to the Mekong River
and, beyond, to the Thai camps; how one family
came to the river and lashed each adult,
each child, to a bamboo pole fit under
the arms to keep them afloat, tied
everyone together, a string of soft pearls
crossing the animal river; how the parents,
pulling the weight of that chain, began to choke
and falter, began to drown, felt the river
claim them; how the father drowned something
in himself, cut away the two youngest
and let the river take them, felt the sudden
terrible lightness of the line, swam hard
until they felt the shore under them. They made it
to the camps, where, safe and destroyed,
they could not move, as if their legs and feet
were filled with river water, muddied
and stinking. A story too heavy for parents
to carry alone, too heavy for travelers.
Look how it pours onto the page, soaking it,
running into the ink so that every story
is filled with this story. I've never seen
that river. I imagine it braiding itself
fast over its stones, brown with the earth
it cuts through. Look how far that river
has taken these children. I hear it again:
what it has cost to come to this fire
in this language, to let this current of words
take these children again into unknown ears.
I see again how we waded into war, that fast
red river, and cut away children.
Those tiny bodies! — the weight of ten rivers,
moving forever over our heads. Isn't it right
that the story circle back to its source? Isn't it we
who are drowning, wearing this necklace
of more and more stones — carrying
the watery weight of these dead, our dead,
from mother to father, to river to page.
—Teresa J. Scollon, Traverse City, Michigan
Teresa Scollon’s work has appeared in several journals, including The Dunes Review, Atlanta Review, Damselfly Press, Nimrod (forthcoming), Off Channel (forthcoming) and Spoon River Poetry Review (forthcoming). She is a frequent contributor and producer for community radio, and her chapbook Friday Nights the Whole Town Goes to the Basketball Game is a 2009 winner of the Michigan Writers chapbook competition.
The Center for the Intrepid
($50 Million Rehabilitation Center Opens on Fort Sam Houston -San Antonio Express News, Jan 2007)
Wheeled onto the jet leaving
my town, another soldier
whose pruned body echoes earth
liberating itself from gravity.
Inside the cave of his grey
-hooded shirt he sweats
as might a ghost or cello.
As in another war when a baptism
and birthday party band wrapped
their music in black garbage bags
and dug deep beside the Lempa river.
There they stayed until the air emptied
of metal and fear. Only the air never.
One of the first things learned
by a possible jury is that you cannot be
a witness against yourself.
What then is a body? I raised
my right hand. I still have
a right hand, knees, skin that tries
to explain its own brine and marrow.
It’s tomorrow and my children want the game
they call you be the monster, I’ll be the kid.
The grown-ups I know still walk around
make-believing they are in one piece.
We waited so long
to be sure of something.
The song below flinched
a little from the cold.
The song below asking who now
owns his bones?
—Jenny Browne, San Antonio, Texas
Jenny Browne is a former James Michener Fellow in Poetry at the University of Texas in Austin, and is the author of two collections of poems, At Once and The Second Reason, both from University of Tampa Press. Recent poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, AGNI, Fourth Genre, Sentence, and The Texas Observer. A recipient of fellowships from the Texas Writer's League and the San Antonio Artists Foundation, she worked for many years as poet-in-residence in schools, libraries and community centers throughout Texas. She now lives in downtown San Antonio and teaches creative writing at Trinity University.
Femincide/Fimicidio ~ The Murdered and Disappeared Women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Amnesty International has confirmed that since 1992
the number of murdered women and girls from and around
Ciudad Juárez is 475, and it believes over 5,000 women and
girls have disappeared. –Barbara Martinez Jittner, Independent Film Maker
On this eve of the dead, I cry out loud,
“por favor Virgen de Guadalupe, don’t
forsake me,” before I open the door,
before I see la policía flat
black eyes, before his mouth opens to tell
me, my Solana, m’hija, is dead.
Our women and girls are vanishing from
Ciudad Juárez. Mi casa. All he brings
is a box with two leg bones; “Proof,” he says.
¡Ha! I’ve seen death; I know bones.
I cross myself, speak a mamá’s clear truth:
.......“On m’hija’s First Holy Communion,
.......She broke her right leg in two places.
.......These bones, two left leg bones, are not Solana’s.”
“These bones, two left leg bones, are not Solana’s.”
mama says, before closing the door. She passes
my bedroom. I am here, but we did not
have my party, mi quinceñeara.
I’m fifteen today, a woman.
amiga, heard yesterday that a girl
from Colonia Paz, never came home from her job.
Twice a day, I pray, Virgen de Guadalupe
save me from factory work in Ciudad Juárez;
Two weeks in this silent room, watching Pretty
Boy, parakeet of mi hermana, pace his perch. The last
three days his water cup has remained full.
Today, I found him on the cage floor.
Today, I stopped waiting for Solana.
Today, I stopped waiting for Solana
to appear at the bus stop de la maquila.
For two weeks,
.....................I’ve waited for her smile.
At our work stations, las chicas and I whisper
the names of la muerta between thin lips.
We sew capris, daily quotas for a big store
across la forntera.
.....................We asked the Bosses
for parking lot lights, guard posts. They gave us
whistles, self-defense talks.
..........................................We asked la policía
to protect us; they do not listen. El Diablo
and las policías, one and the same.
Las chicas y yo work in silences.
We need our jobs. We have familias.
The Bosses say, “Women can be replaced.”
Bosses Say, Women Can Be Replaced—
AP Wire. NAFTA’s enactment
has allowed foreign-owned factories
to cash in on low-cost labor, easy access
to U.S. markets. But at maquiladoras,
assembly plants, women bank no bargains;
their week last sixty to seventy hours;
wages $5.75 a day [milk costs $2.50
a gallon]; pregnant women are denied jobs
or fired; workers are attacked for drawing
attention to callous working conditions.
After shift changes gates are locked, and workers
turned away if three minutes late. Forced
to return home alone, often in the dark.
I return home, alone, to darkness and
silence, after reconstructing remains
of Jurárez’s unidentified dead
women. Every night my home, like the white,
sterile Chihuahua State Forensic morgue,
fills with bodies, parts: acid etched skin; breasts,
slashed, stabbed, gnawed; raped vaginas; heads leaking
from gun shot wounds. These girls have long hair, brown
complexions. They are young. Someone’s child.
My child. She lived for seventeen years in this house.
If Paloma's case, caso de m'hija
isn’t solved, I’ll join other mothers, plant pink/
black crosses outside state police offices. Our
united voices speak louder than one tongue.
United voices speak louder than one tongue;
we paint black and pink crosses, march the streets
saying names of three hundred and twenty ninas
y mujeres raped, mutilated, matadas—
“Laura Ramos Monarrez, Lourdes Lucero
Campos, Sagrario Gonzalez Flores,
Paloma Villa Rodriguez, Guadalupe
Estrada Salas, Solana Sanchez Cruz . . .”
our hijas y hermanas.
say prostitutes, mujeres del fugitivos:
we know el secreto pile of bones; missing
files; a woman’s body clothed in another
woman’s dress; evidencia destruida—
five hundred kilos of clothing burned last week.
I boxed a hundred pounds of clothing today;
cleared closets of capris, tee-shirts; threw
away Halloween bag of Brach’s candy corn;
a label funeral for Made in Mexico.
My protest, against NAFTA, the Mexican
Government, the Juárez police, makes me
a world citizen; makes me read today’s newspaper:
“Six Peoria Black Women Murdered, Bodies
Found Over Last Three Years in Rural Countryside.”
I read their names: Brenda Erving, Frederickia Brown,
Linda Neal, Barbara Williams, Sabrina Payne, Wanda
Jackson. Paper says “prostitutes, addicts.” Turn page,
“Four Peoria Black Women Still Missing.”
On this eve of the dead, I cry out, loud.
—Demetrice Anntía Worley , Peoria, Illinois
Demetrice Anntía Worley received her B.A. from Bradley University; M.A. from University of Illinois, Urbana; and D.A. from Illinois State University. Her poetry has appeared in Reverie, Permafrost, Spoon River Poetry Review (where she was a finalist for the 2002 Editor's Prize), and Clackamas Literary Review, and in in anthologies such as Women. Period., Risk, Courage, and Women: Contemporary Voices in Prose and Poetry, Temba Tupu! (Walking Naked) Africana Women's Poetic Self-Portrait, and Spirit & Flame: Contemporary African American Poets. She is a Cave Canem Fellow. Demetrice is co-editor of Language and Image in Reading-Writing Classroom: Teaching Vision (LEA); African-American Literature: An Anthology, 2nd edition (McGraw-Hill); and Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle . . . And Other Modern Verse, 2nd edition (ScottForesman). An associate professor at Bradley University, she teaches creative writing, African American literature, and writing courses from composition to writing theory.
Split This Rock subscribes to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics. Click here to read the code.