We enjoyed reading the many submissions for this year’s Poetry & Fiction Contests and are excited to publish some of the work here.
1st Place Fiction: Hitched
Charise believed if she remarried, her faucet wouldn’t drip and the left blinker on her Impala would work. In kind, she would clean house and cook meals for her new husband. But, one thing she wouldn’t do was wash his dirty underwear.
Match.com was her preferred site to look for a man. As she scrolled through pictures, Ralph came over and started humping her leg. She made a seesaw motion to get him off. Charise’s recently deceased ex-husband bequeathed Ralph, his beloved Beagle, to her.
The only reason Charise took the dog was because she got a monthly stipend. Now she could afford to go out to dinner once a week with her best-friend Rita.
Ralph was hers now. Her only obligation was an occasional video chat with the executor of her ex-husband’s estate to prove that Raph was in good hands. She dreaded those “talk-and-see” calls. She wished she could train Ralph to “FaceTime” by himself. She didn’t want to groom Ralph nor get out of her pajamas for those video calls.
Charise continued scanning Match.com and Ralph kept trying to hump her leg. Finally, she clicked on a picture of an older man with a dimple in his chin. His profile said he liked to fish. She had fond memories of fishing with her father. But the thought passed, so she closed the browser and abandoned her pursuit.
Rita was waiting for her at the diner. Charise maneuvered her claw-foot cane on the worn-out carpeting and took a seat in the booth.
Rita leaned in and said, “Did you find the right one?”
“No. I told you I’m just looking.”
“Well, when are you going to stop looking and start meeting?”
“What do you mean Charise? Why did you sign up for Match.com?”
“I don’t know … I guess … I guess I want to meet somebody.”
“Well, why don’t you meet somebody?”
“Ah, forget it, Rita. I’m busy right now. I’m teaching Ralph how to use FaceTime.”
“FaceTime. What’s that?”
“It’s a way to video chat with someone. Like on the Jetsons. Gawd, I hate that stupid app.”
“So, if you hate it, why are you using it?”
“I have to. It’s how I get my doggie-money.”
“I didn’t tell you? Ralph’s attorney uses FaceTime to check on me and make sure I’m taking care of Ralph.”
“Ah, it pays the bills.”
Rita and Charise hugged before they left the diner. Charise went back to her apartment, and Ralph started howling as she opened the door.
“Hello Ralphie boy. Ready to watch the Jetson’s? You know you love Astro. Don’t you?”
Charise put on her silky pajamas, went back to the living room, sat on the couch and grabbed the remote. Ralph wagged his tail, went for her leg and humped it. Charise flicked her foot and patted the couch to coax him to sit next to her. Ralph hopped on the couch and licked her face. She kissed him back and thought “My check is in the mail.”
Denise Sedman is a published author, writing both fiction and poetry. She runs a monthly Writer’s Group Workshop at the Westland Library.
2nd Place Fiction: Terra Firma
Inhale, exhale. The sunlight glissades onto me, I extend upward to soak in the light and energy. I feel the gentle pulses of those around me, I pass them on to my neighbors, who then echo the pulses back to me. This is continuous for most of the day, a series of soft ripples of communication, gradually sweeping the root network and returning back to the origin, the Mother. The subtle vibrations keep us connected, remind us that we are one. Some may live, some may perish, but the forest remains a forest nonetheless. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. A gust of wind sways us all; we moan and creak and we stretch, the sunlight dappling our leaves, allowing those who have been shaded all day to imbibe the precious energy. I feel the tremors of another network, the conifers. My roots are overlapped by a few of theirs, the pulses wash over me in a frequency I do not understand while in my own network. I try sometimes to interpret the subtle oscillations. For this, I must remove myself from my network to the best of my ability and delve deeper into the greater System. The Earth belongs to nothing, it is that from which we all grow, that by which we are all connected. With detachment from my network brings the overwhelming tide of feeling. The Earth teeming with life. I feel the grass, who have lost their sense of the individual and work instead as a homogenous and harmonious colony. I discern the trepidation of the flowers, each working ceaselessly to produce a seed and achieve pollination. I detect the rapid movement of the creatures that breathe that which we exhale, the beings that burn so brightly with vitality but whose flame is extinguished much quicker. Our imperative symbiosis with them is what sustains us both, what sustains us all. Once I have descended to this deeper level of creation, of being, I am able to comprehend the interconnectedness of the System; the delicate balance of give and take that allows some to grow and causes others to fade. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. There is a disturbance. Something has occurred. Something is occurring. I feel the strength of the pulses, washing over me again and again as each member relays the message repeatedly. One is gone, one has been taken. Their absence is felt in the system, a gap in the once-fluid stream of awareness, a break in the connection. What has brought this immediate change? Never has one in our number disappeared from the web suddenly, all change is gradual. Those other than the Mother are emitting pulses, each unable to understand what has taken place. Among the ripples, I sense another gap. The connection has broken with another. Again, this break is immediate, without warning. The Mother transmits a stream of pulses, we are thrumming, all bound by the Mother to receive her message with clarity. The thrumming carries a clear instruction. We all abandon our network and delve deep into the System, losing our sense of the individual and our awareness of each other, absorbing ourselves in the connection of the Earth as a whole. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. I probe the network, sending out a feeble pulse and waiting to feel the rebound informing me of others who have returned to the network. The ripple returns, much less significant than before. I relay another series of vibrations, the reply time is much shorter than it was before submerging into the System. The Mother is still there, I feel her in my roots, travelling the network and searching for lost kin. She retracts, allowing us all to extend and fully feel the absence. Life in all aspects is missing, there is a barrier we cannot extend beyond, we can sense nothing. Nothing except a new life, one that does not seem to connect. This life exhales that which we inhale, but that is the only contact we sense. Is this life the reason for the barrier? Has this new, detached life replaced our lineage? Will they return? This immediate change shocks us, the smaller network allowing for deeper connection that allows us to interpret ripples with more clarity. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. The new life grows larger in number and closer in contact. I feel them amongst us. They do not consume from the Earth, they do not seem bound by the Earth; they are still not connected to the System. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. The connection is stronger between us than before. There are fewer than there were. Each ripple returns with stronger response but weaker congruity. We are one, yet I am able to discern each pulse as its own from another, rather than as a universally interpreted message. The Mother has been quiet. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. The Mother is gone. The network is lost. The only connections I feel are those of the System. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. I now stand alone. The sun engulfs me, stunning me with light and energy in quantities previously unknown to me. I resurface from the System into my own network that contains solely myself. My seeds have fallen and will grow soon. I await their growth, their germination will mean that I am the new Mother. Soon. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. The new life is everywhere, I do not understand. I cannot connect. They have no network, they have no system. They place things on the Earth that contain no life, they themselves appear not to be living were it not for their growth and movement. Where is their network? Do they require the sunlight, as I do? My seeds have germinated and are creating root systems of their own. I gently emit oscillations, ensuring they photosynthesize properly and learn of the System. Soon they will be able to connect and create a network. Soon, I will be the Mother. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. The new life has ruined the Earth. Where there was life is unresponsive. The System has become limited and confined, I am no longer able to expand my reach as far as I am able. The barrier has extended around me in all directions. My seedlings are still unable to respond, but their growth is tangible in the Earth. Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale. The Sun envelops me, I bask in the rays. My leaves absorb what they need. The plasmids are funneled down to my roots. There is a fracture in the continuity, a gash in my solidness. The connection I feel to my leaves is narrowing, I can feel myself coming apart, my leaves and appendage abandoning the System and my roots. Inhale, ex —–
Rachel Pasche is a current student at the University of Michigan studying Creative Writing. She loves watching Spongebob Squarepants, hiking with her dog, and rereading the Harry Potter series as often as possible.
1st Place Poetry: First Wolf
The pots and pans
the wooden spoons
all shaking without us,
a masterpiece of calamity.
Our tent couldn’t keep
the noises from seeping
in, almost as if they were
invited. A lullaby I never
asked for. The boy
I was with whispering
to me to either fall asleep
or keep him company
as I remarked again
and again how I could almost
see their little hands gripping
all of our supplies, and how
the noises, the banging
of wood on metal, was
like an ambulance rushing
up behind when you’re trapped
at a stoplight. He was trying to
soothe me back to sleep,
trying to get me to compromise,
either sink back into quietude
or at least make it worth his
while. In the distance I heard
my first wolf, howling against
the raccoons just outside.
Nature, he said, was like this.
You can never control anything,
just accept that some animals will
take all that they can get.
Lisa Folkmire is a poet from Warren, Michigan. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and her poems have appeared in Heron Tree Literary Arts Journal, Erstwhile Magazine, Yellow Chair Review’s Rock the Chair Challenge, Atlas & Alice, among others.
2nd Place Poetry: for Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, a mom who protected her son from gunfire during the Pulse shooting for the price of two bullets
when the moment & music shattered
you didn’t freeze, falter, or forget.
under those lights it must have come back
the reactionary orchestra of protect,
I know, get down
for you, mother of 11,
this was just another night;
your son, the club,
making all of yourself into a promise
it starts & you are his whole
& we, Brenda, could only ever hope
to match you should our names be called by Bravery
I seem to only be able
to write this letter fragment to you.
four years ago
I got around to begin opening up
to my mother & since then
the afternoon before you died
she texted me simply to ask how I was doing
I’m so very queer, even more tattoos
and the same messy brain
& we are both still learning
how to love each other
Alex is a teaching artist, dialogue facilitator, and recipient of the 2015 Jeffrey L. Weisburg Memorial Prize in Poetry. Currently a National Community Scholar in the University of Michigan’s Master of Social Work program, their work can be found in the Café Shapiro Anthology Series, the Michigan Daily, and Uncommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning and Living.
3rd Place Poetry: Nighttime
Darkness soft and hazy.
If a summer’s night fell into its lull
Of heat and the shimmering tittering of crickets
I’d imagine a thunderstorm in the distance,
Its lightning nearly ready to crack the sky,
Cleave it in two,
Like some thing that could be broken.
Midnight: the air is still heavy but
A breeze rustles through the trees and sighs
Onto my skin through the open window.
A streetlight casts a cone of pale sheen on the pavement.
Empty street, empty spotlight
Sleeping city and spinning globe
And me, resting my head on my elbows,
Resting my elbows on window sill,
Drinking in the black,
Swallowed, but here, and here, and here.
Kelsey Zimmerman is an Ann Arbor native and has a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. She is a skilled knitter and amateur photographer and writer.