Award for New Poets, 1st Place Winner: The Anorexic’s Aubade by Kirk Schlueter
Today is the day! Proud to present Kirk Schlueter’s wrenching “The Anorexic’s Aubade,” selected by Victoria Chang for the $3000 prize. The poem is tender—medium rare—haunting like an empty stomach, and speaks in a voice like prayer across a handful of perfectly wrought images. Let it rush you into the light, let it linger like the cries of a hungry animal in the dark.
The Anorexic’s Aubade
While we slept, your breath bristling
my throat, the last coyotes
in Kansas City crept through streets
shining with ice to strew a necklace
of paw prints below our window.
I knew the tongue they spoke,
desperate for a grease-soaked bag
or fly-spangled fruit skin. For breakfast
your mother made scrambled eggs.
When you ladled a knuckle of food
onto your plate, I reached for your hand,
asked, Are you sure that’s enough? Your glare hissed
I don’t try to save you, you don’t try to save me.
I dropped my gaze, shoved my own eggs
around to make it seem I’d eaten more.
At the football stadium the day before,
we watched men destroy their bodies
to adoring roars, and don’t we both know
that desire, to celebrate what we’ve lost?
My whole drive home across the blue fields
of Missouri, past cattle fences clotted
with snow, I remembered those coyotes.
Even months later, when we rent apart
like meat cleaving off a bone, their squeals
as they fled into the peach-pale dawn
remained. As did the bones of your face
& everything they hold. What light
we rush into. Which of our cries linger?
Kirk Schlueter received his MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. His poetry has been a finalist for the Rattle Poetry Prize, the Indiana Review Poetry Prize, and the Yemassee Prize, and has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, RHINO, Nimrod, Grist, Ninth Letter, Natural Bridge, Greensboro Review, Green Mountains Review, Zone 3, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Connotation Press, Indianapolis Review, Gulf Stream and elsewhere. He has been awarded a full scholarship to the NYS Summer Writers Institute and has been a part of the River Styx Hungry Young Poets Reading Series. He lives in the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.