First place: Memory Talkies, Jonaki Ray
On the road leading away from Florence,
a woman is screaming at a man with a Picasso face.
Shaking his head and half-shutting the door,
he walks inside the house,
leaving her alone at the stoop, smoking.
She is trembling like the skeleton
of a snail being picked clean by a colony of ants.
The driveway leads to a gate
and a child is attempting to swing it open,
his face a smeared version of a Botticelli angel.
Old men in Kolkata, reading newspapers, smoking,
and solving the world’s problems
are facsimiling in the suburbs of this city,
while Cypress trees fingers point skywards, apportioning blame.
Buttery light pouring over miles of yet-to-be-harvested farms
with stakes at their hearts dusks the days to evenings.
In Montefioralle, a woman named Margherita offers me
a gooseberry-colored plum, while her husband tugs
at her attention like clothespins before a thunderstorm.
I am back in the city that led a crushed Independence Mutiny,
failing with my mother in convincing my father
to let her go for a conference, alone.
Who will take care of everything,
he asks, even now,
a dozen years after her dying.
Second place: Halcyon, Vasiliki Albedo
When I give my
father my poem he
translates it to Greek.
Each word teethes in his mouth.
He insists on the unknown: pree-ci-pai-ce,
I explain: γκρεμός, an abrupt,
In the afternoon shadow I see him again
as I did as a girl in the top-heavy dark
of his office: lofty, daunting,
like a gargoyle poring over his law books.
He continues, points out as he thinks
a verb is missing. When he stumbles
on ‘halcyon’ he stops and Iooks at me.
Smiling, he recites the myth of Alcyone,
describes how Aeolus reined in
his winds for a week every year to make space
for his kingfisher-daughter to lay her eggs
by the placid sea. I nod
but persist on the nuance of the English
word I intended. Calm, he repeats
and starts again with the myth.
When he comes to the silence at the end of the page
it’s like tuning into the static after a glance
at a report card or an indifferent Christmas gift.
I knew almost all the words, he says.
there’s a tone to his voice I’ve never heard
when he calls to discuss metaphor.
Special Commendation: Notes For A Canary Fancier, Iulia David
Notes For A Canary Fancier
When you first bring
the canary home,
let it enter the cage by itself, let it hop
from the travelling box to its new frame:
real-life, four-chambered heart pouring
Call it home, this
shiny home, its teeth
bare not in hostility, but in eternity;
none of its four walls are missing –
let it enter voluntarily, leap closer
to the soft wood perches, a tray for food,
another for water. Let
pass by the mirror,
surface its own loneliness, sink
into the air of your house
surrounding its house.
Look at its feet.
Find what they know
more than two strays praying.
Find how you can't unsee them –
praying, blessed as they are,
with moist biscuit and
Now find the door and close it.
Now wait. The yellow wait
is when you bring Africa
to your living room
and wait. For the song
will come.And in one of the chambers
she will wake up
and show you
her whipping scars.