Frontier OPEN Finalists: Part 3 of 3
Our last finalists are three amazing poets: Ebony E. Chinn, Regina Marie, and Amanda Hawkins. So many stunners included here: the moonlight tied down, the withered claw, the stones we hold in our chests. Enjoy, share, lift up these talented authors.
Ars Poetica in Blue by Ebony E. Chinn
In Moonlight, Black boys look blue
and Beyoncé says Black girls don’t look good in blue light,
but that don’t stop me from soaking in the sky,
even though I can’t swim.
I love skin the shade of the moon’s backside.
I listen to Blue in Green as if Bill and Miles never left.
B.B. King named his blues after a woman.
And what’s sadder than a woman being played by a man?
A daughter estranged from her father?
The daughter referring to herself in the third person?
The father falling and lying on the floor
reaching out to me like a ray of moonlight tied down?
*last line is from Neruda’s “Meloncholy Inside Families”
Ebony E. Chinn was born and raised in New Jersey. She is a McNair Scholar, a Callaloo Fellow, a Poets & Writers Amy Award recipient, and a Poetry Assistant Editor for Anomaly. She is an MFA student at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Her work has appeared in H_NGM_N, Callaloo, and Narrative.
Fall by Regina Marie
As if I would fall end-over-end against a dry azure sky.
As if I would be lifted in apple-crisp air and lit by ivory light. As if
I could hold my inevitable end — goodbye — tenderly like a leaf vein
carries sugar sap through midrib, petiole, and stem.
It will not be like that.
But the strong brew of germicidal and ICU.
But opiates and alarms alarmed by not.
But tubes and bags and diapers. But the thick
rasp in back of her throat. But nights on the couch
closer the care-assist bed. But wake-up the demons
are real she cannot move. But is it better to be locked-in
or locked-out. But the morphine will fail. Please make it stop.
But the sound wave does not fall. It travels in time.
It is the deadfall of leaves, the windfall of trees.
It is the leaves’ shortfall, their fallow landfall. All good
and evil that befalls leaves must come from dirt.
It is the sound of dying upswept.
In another deadfall, we freeze time by x-raying her chest
each month. We freeze time by watching for increased
clumsiness, by dragging an oxygen tank through sand.
Time does not like to be frozen.
In another deadfall, crestfallen time smears under
the tires. Stripes the Sawmill. Hurry. Blood clots
over the East River, left lane, right lane, airport
exit. The jaws of life open.
As bare and bare her Raintree, I watch my mother
upswept (to where) and then waft back into her skin
as if perfected erasure of prayer. We whisper
of love. And then there are no more leaves.
As if my mistakes are interleaved with my 206 bones and torment my ligaments
I zip my leather and keep ahead as if this is good practice for the end of life.
After, when my Mother visits she is unreasonably happy. She is the color of stars.
She says, Regina, it is even better than we thought. After, when Ellen visits, she has
a penthouse in the city. Two topless women pose on her couch. She says, Oh honey,
you are so naive.
In this deadfall, I enter the upswept sound. Here my mouth cracks
around the water sponge, here my bird-bone fingers clutch my head
(bald, push it right, push it left), here my knees tuck to my chest
and my body curves to withered claw.
In this deadfall there is an ivory silence. Interleaved. Complex.
As if septillion upon septillion of infinitesimal heat pumps. As if whir
under the scent of my Mother’s skin. As if hum of blood
through the tiniest capillaries in quantum foam.
Regina Marie started writing with great urgency late in life after a long career designing software. She recently received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, CALYX, Briarcliff Review, Permafrost and Puerto del Sol. Regina teaches meditation, volunteers mightily with Citizens Climate Lobby, and lives with her wife in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Study Tour by Amanda Hawkins
Our guide liked to remind us to speak
of every land as holy.
Or, to leave holiness out
of conversations, to say,
we are on a study tour of the Middle East,
meaning, in four weeks
we’d pass through three whole countries,
the rocks our destination—
rough surfaces polished or worn smooth, stacked and intact,
carved as waterway, tunnel, or holy monument, most
and unstacked from the centuries.
This here is the wall of Jericho.
This here is the Temple Mount.
This the carved face and homes of rose
that somehow remain also bright
in the light of day. In class we watched an interview
of a Romanian woman who lived
her life after Auschwitz
At the beginning of the trip we reached
the top of a mountain at sunset and looked
out to the great Dead Sea. More rock, another dry
wadi to wash another ancient attempt
Rock head high, waist high, wall huge,
laid into a floor,
crumbled, broken, and displaced. Rock
and bits of rock mounded like graves.
In between film shots of the woman flashed
black and white photographs
the color and grain
of granite. Images from the camps—mostly
of still-live prisoners, but one of a man’s body laid
on a table split
open at the chest.
A group of doctors surrounded.
She did not talk of stone,
she talked about the body.
Then she talked of envisioning
an interaction, a story not her own.
She said to imagine was the beginning of forgiveness.
At Saint Catherine’s at the base of the Mountain of God
to descend to the catacombs—
all that death scent and bone,
the very stone steps a testament
to heaviness. Archaeologists read
with geo- and soci- ologies to create
a story from the layers
of rubble and rock.
Doesn’t matter as much the distinction between
types of Jerusalem stone. The woman went
with a former soldier
to the Auschwitz memorial to sign
a document she drafted as proof.
Can you imagine, our guide threw in, in this world
some do not believe
the Holocaust happened, could happen anywhere else.
I tell him later I believe
I can imagine
almost anything—isn’t that why we both fear
and hope? Some of us can see
what a body is capable. In the Ignatian Exercises the devoted
explore each character
in a passage of holy text. On a Friday Fun night
we watched the cartoon version of The Exodus.
Moses leads his people out of slavery, out of Egypt.
God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
A darkness spreads itself on the land,
and all the firstborns die unless
the people paint their doorframes with the blood
of a slaughtered lamb. The purpose
of the exercise is to imagine
yourself as various—to be God
speaking from the burning bush. To smell the bush, un-burning.
To be the man in need of direction, feel the stone
cool on unsandaled feet. To wedge your own body in a cleft
of rock, hear the wind howling in the mountains.
To be Pharaoh in his great power and great loss.
To be moved to risk
to identify with hardness.