Over the next few weeks, we'll be celebrating the winners and runners-up of our last three annual poetry contests. You'll have the chance to enjoy six beautiful poems and see what our judges have picked in the past.
If reading inspires you to submit your own work, head over to Submittable, where you can check out the full guidelines for this year's contest.
Up this week: Arah Ko's first-place winning poem "Fish Eye" and "For the Forced Amaryllis in My Lockdown Living Room" by Christine Swint. Both poems appear alongside select finalists in Issue 61: Beginnings and Endings, just released this past March.
We fought over them after dinner, my brother
and I. Two salty beads, milk-white,
floating in a wrinkled silver face,
spine of exposed splinters, chili
oil blood on the table before us. Clear
green tea running into my mother’s
tiny cup. What couldn’t be eaten at that table?
Scars on halmuni’s bare feet from feathering
over shrapnel are like sour kimchi.
Sorrow, drunk heartily from translucent
soju bottles. Each tragedy made small
as short-grained rice, anything we couldn’t
swallow pried like fish ribs from my bleeding
gums. The present has a way of ballooning
until the future and past touch, warping
at the edges of my vision. This moment:
a fish-eye lens, broken eulogy, dark medicine,
lunch. The world outside, bland as water
juk, noses wrinkling at our smell.
Within, a plate turned toward me, chop
-sticks pressed against my lips. My ancestors
asking, 여우 새끼, aren’t you hungry?
For the Forced Amaryllis in My Lockdown Living Room
I want to praise this potted bulb, goddess
On a window throne I’ve watered and fed
In time-lapsed devotion. I want to bless
Its becoming, its slow revelation of blossoms
Red as sirens even in winter’s wan light.
Praise sunbeams reaching through a scrim of pines
Like missionaries from the Galaxy of Hope.
Praise petals scrolling from a dark throat
Their tongues giving voice to the quietude of soil.
Praise stems and sepals greening the blooms,
The filaments and anthers that beckon
Bees, butterflies, and moths still churning
In their midnight caves. Praise the parts
I can’t detect. Praise being. Praise breath.
Want to read more finalists from the 2021 contest? You can buy a print or digital copy of Issue 61 in our store.
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