Poetry Centre

First place

  • Abigail J. Villarroel’s winning poem, ‘Clean Slate’ ends with the certainty of a date and a place, but the poem itself is anything but certain. The poem reflects on being disembodied across cultures, times, and spaces in an era when access to air travel has become - perhaps - all too easy. It is ambitious in its use of a fragmented form, reflecting the broken and incomplete nature of the speaker’s experience. The poem explores large questions which concern us all: how do we find a sense of ourselves in the world? Do the material things we accumulate make up for something more intrinsic and valuable that makes us who we are, and that we might have lost in transitions between homes, languages, different stages of our lives? And finally, is there any way of returning to an original self, a blank place from which we might start all over again

    Clean Slate

    coast born palm trees
                          free sunsets                  fried plantain
    pirated cds                                                             cheap gasoline
                                              life unstained still in need of a clean slate

    these planes linger between borders
                  and take me places i shouldn't see;
                                               as the caribbean fades from me
                                             spanish becomes second nature
                     and past horizons stay dead everywhere
    but inside me.

    home is fleeting; with time
    reduced to naked roofs and hotel rooms.

    oceans infinite puddles
    by the window seat,
    charles de gaulle a dream at thirteen
    turned burden at sixteen.

    lorde understands,
    "i'll never go home again"
    and i tear up, find myself related
    to all the ways i won't go back.

    i could visit every year,
    study the maps knowing it’d change nothing.
    i could visit every year,
    knowing it goes beyond presence 
    into my changed core.

    knowing my soul is not one
    with the soil that had me raised.

    wondering if who i'm becoming is worth 
    this confusion; in such denial  
    of clean slates and absolution.

    Orlando, FL

    by Abigail J. Villarroel