2020 Frontier OPEN Winner: A MARBLE RUN FOR ANOTHER END-OF-DAYS by Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Kayleb Rae Candrilli has won the 2020 Frontier OPEN! A sincere formal innovation and work of magic, “A Marble Run for Another End-of-Days” is a stunning new addition to our winners of the Frontier OPEN and the $5000 prize. Please stay tuned as we’re publishing the finalists throughout the rest of this week.



Oh, bouquet of steak knives, I want you to uncut your own steel stems and grow again. This dry heat has taken all our arid land
and we need you back in the ground, serrated and rooting, arid and alive. I wish I could undo what’s been done onto all of us.
I wish I could undo what’s been done to our bodies, our homes, our back yards—filled exclusively with broken glass. Sure, a war is coming,
but the truth is, a war has always already been arrived, alive and dead at the same time—warring and warring, a truck trucking without brakes.
Who cut the brake lines if not a vengeful human? Every field is a potter’s field. All we build are glass houses of ammunition in the sun.
Instead, someone should help me build glass houses to protect trans kids from rain, while their shirts hang on the laundry line out back.
Each spring I take off my shirt, step into a greenhouse I’ve built, bury my feet in the soil, and scatter eggshells. Most things are about growth
and tending your own rotting roots. Most things are about staying alive while men want you dead. In this life, I recline between too drunk
and the landscape of my partner’s favorite forest. I recline just to see that the sky is all blue platitudes. This is my life, glittering and full of pulse.

This is my life and no-one else’s. Just a glittering Odysseus, take the booze out of my body and all that’s left is a lightshow of sound, an occasional
record scratch, and pennies shook in a ceramic bowl. Take the blood out of my body and what’s left are scars shaped like cymbals about to crash.
Scarring myself has always been about symbols, about that particular percussion. We’ve all made a rain stick made of copper pipe and long-grain rice.
We’ve all made some kind of music—been ashamed of the raw noise. Older than I’ve ever been, I’m tired of pretending that I don’t love dubstep and
a nasty drop. I’m tired of pretending to be so serious, when my heart sounds most like a synthesizer, and everyone lays their head to my chest, sometimes.
My partner lays their head to my chest; they remark on its predictability, its steady rhythm. Yes, it snows in our bedroom, delicate and supernatural.
My partner’s heart beats like thunder thrown overboard, divine and unnatural. Both fear and astonishment are dizzy sensations born from stomachs—
seasick with mortality, dizzy with one another’s skin in sun. I once told my partner that the ocean never learned to swim, so I built the water wings.
Though I’ve taken the ocean’s salt into my mouth, I still can’t swim. Oh, small and delicate avalanche in the bedroom, everything is about the heart.

Oh, steep and decisive avalanche, why don’t you swallow our bodies and make them yours, at long last? My chest replicates the moon’s rocky mist. My once-
breasts are flat and cold as the moon—cratered side of the pillow. Each morning, I wake blue from dreams of my old life on the mountain: overdoses
and only ash. Each morning, my partner wakes fevered, after another night captive in their Catholic school cafeteria. They touch me, and their fever falls.
They touch me and I recall the fire that claimed my body as kindling. My mother shoveled January’s blizzard into the tub and forced me in. I learned early
how to draw up an ice bath, for whoever is running too hot. I learned young how-to mother both the hailing child and the colicky storm. Life after all,
is about learning. Each hailstorm has an eye that can see more than we’ve ever seen. Isn’t that incredible? When our world finally begins its end, we will run.
And when we all run, I’ll mourn the house plants, stuck in their terra cotta pots. We’ve done most things terribly wrong: I pack another head-wound with glitter
in the hopes that I finally heal shining. I have most things so dreadfully wrong, except positioning myself nearer to midnight and loving my partner. Always,
it’s midnight, and oh, bouquet of tulips dead on my kitchen counter, let me take all that violence into my mouth, let me uncut your stems. Let’s just grow again.




Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is the recipient of a Whiting Award and of a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. They are the author of Water I Won’t Touch, All the Gay Saints, and What Runs Over. Candrilli's work is published or forthcoming in POETRY, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and others. They live in Philadelphia with their partner.

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