Poetry Centre

EAL category


  • First Place (EAL): a poem in which I use the word 'betoken' for the first time in my life by Laura Theis

    here’s a little bauble of dust for you
    to hit me with: hard 

    so I go down then get up and
    hug you like a monkey catcher 

    I blow up dripped in blood then get up once more
    dipped in honey 

    the hug entails all the gratitude of a grave and
    all the gravity of a fleeing mare: look 

    you have made a mark that betokens
    the death of light


  • Second Place (EAL): Bark of a Dog by Elsa Braekkan Payne

    Perhaps it is the rhythm of the swinging seat,
    the smell of other people’s barbecues, the waiting
    for the dog next door to bark again.

    Or just the cheek of June and the open windows –
    for suddenly I’m deep in the start of a story
    about a couple, just like us.  And at first, 

    I feel pity for her, who keeps herself busy,
    pecking away at being her truest self.  Then,
    in the blink of a skimming bat, 

    I pity him, who always thought he knew
    for certain who he truly was; which doesn’t seem
    to be working so well anymore.  

    It must be the twilight – how it fires the eyes
    of the pansies I planted last month.  More nude,
    the yellow; more sly, the indigo.  And now,    

    as day and night entwine, I see the inside-outness
    of tales that open playfully, and soon begin
    to snake and bite.  For what are they doing, 

    she and he, circling mole-blind round a tired garden
    that’s starting to look like an ancient wood?
    I know too well that endings are tricky,     

    yet here I am at the edge, hearing the absent
    bark of a dog, who might, in fact, be a wolf.  So
    maybe this is where it is meant to end – 

    with a sea-saw chill, with petals losing their
    glow, the smell of charcoal fading.  You,
    somewhere else.  Dogs and wolves asleep.


  • Special Commendation (EAL): Underwater Tongue by Mark Dimaisip

    When the neighborhood robins started speaking
    fish, my father gunned down all the anomalies
    that perched on trees. I can still hear the ringing.
    Flashback to six: chasing ants with candles,
    fixing movements in wax. There is a pond
    by the worn, wooden house where ducklings cackle.
    I remember thinking that if chicks could wade
    in the water, maybe their shrill crying would stop.
    When my grandfather collapsed in a stairway,
    I wasn’t taken aback by his ending. Farm teaches death.
    The backyard gravel, becoming more and more maroon.
    The daily playtime of ripping insects apart.
    Dogs and cats put down for fucking all the time.
    Before my grandfather died, he caught me
    placing chicks inside pitchers. He saw drowning.
    I saw learning. His angry face is hard to forget.
    After a slaughter, we would sweep death off the ground
    but blood finds a way to seep beyond cleansing.
    Wounds don’t heal. They turn invisible.
    I walked barefoot into the ocean. Grasping for fish
    words. But the close-fisted waves said no.
    Let me learn, first hand, this underwater tongue.
    Let me tow together what I can’t keep whole.