The 2021 Award for New Poets, 3rd Place Winner: Ashes Arts and Crafts by Emily Hyland

We’re all very excited to share with you the winners of the 2021 Award for New Poets, selected by the guest judges Rosebud Ben-Oni, Andrés Cerpa, and Mai Der Vang. Today, we have “Ashes Arts and Crafts” by Emily Hyland. Check out the first place winner here, and the 2nd place winner here. Thank you to everyone who submitted this year!


Ashes Arts and Crafts

At first we are just preparing, gathering and laying paper we could pour onto
to make multiple ash-sachets for scattering.

Logistics in the spreading of ashes—aesthetics, canisters
had we not brainstormed at lunchtime, Dad would have portioned her into ziplocks.

So we angle pastel layers across the landscape of cleared table
Dad hands me the box heavier than I’d expected the lightness of ashes

we start realizing she’s in there when Dad says
you might see bits of teeth and bone

which turns our eyes to one another
gnawing our stomachs in unfamiliar places.

At this point I ask Dad for scissors to cut the cord
he says snip the corner like a pastry bag

I do, then begin piping mom into mounds across the chroma of tissue paper.
I cut too large, so my sister rigs an impromptu paper funnel in service of precision

Dad had loved directing ambitious art projects with us as children
so we become his kiddos again papier-mâchéing balloons in the breakfast nook

and tumbling rocks to transmute
while he navigates the time travel as we do

at the same time 12 and 8 and 48 as we are 38 and 34 and 74
our bare feet, the cat winding his way through our legs

the plates with worn floral pattern around the edges
stacked with our sandwich crusts.

Not quite ash as much as sand that’s rinsed from bone,
we are all surprised at the density of ashes and their texture

seashells mortar-and-pestled coarse. Beige. A whole human burned down to a bag,
astonished how much of her pours out.

We’d imagined tiny piles strewn in the playroom at the Hillcrest house
like glitter and pom poms to decorate our construction paper collages

while she sprinkled confectioner’s sugar onto cake
up in the kitchen we would eat after dinner.

She is suddenly all over, in piles on the pretty paper,
but in the cracks of the wooden table, too

wafting in the air mist from the motion of cascading down
she dusts up all over us

coating my fingers and under my sister’s nails, smudges onto dad’s shirt
somehow all over him, and we brush her away and away.


Emily Hyland

Emily Hyland’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in armarolla, The Brooklyn Review, Mount Hope Magazine, Sixfold, Palette Poetry, Maryland Literary Review, and The Hollins Critic, among others. Emily earned her MFA in poetry and her MA in English education from Brooklyn College. A restaurateur, educator, and mindful movement teacher from New York City, her cookbook, Emily: The Cookbook, was published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, in 2018. She has been a member of the Community of Writers since June 2019. Emily is the co-founder of the national restaurant groups Pizza Loves Emily and Emmy Squared Pizza. /

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