The Alabama State Poetry Society offers a twice-yearly contest with a variety of themed prizes sponsored by different individuals and poetry organizations. For the Fall 2011 award series, I sponsored the David Kato Prize for poems about the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. (Prizes: $50, $30, $20, plus HM’s at judge’s discretion.) The award honors a Ugandan gay activist who was murdered this year. With the permission of the authors and the ASPS, I am pleased to publish the winners below.
what more is there to say
by Barry Marks
oh mama mama
oh god mama
how can i not believe
believe you made me what i am
you and papa
god papa what do i say
what do i say when i say who i am
who am i to question you mama
when you say i should not
i should not fit myself into another self
it is not enough that a self is warm
is loving is wanting my self
the self you made the way i am
the way you are
you must be
as i must be
who is anyone to say
to say this does not fit there
or there or where i do not fit
do not fit whose formula
you formed me god mama
god papa should i speak of
god papa on god mama to make
baby god me or was god mama
on top how irreverent how shameful
to think of a god mama god papa
oh my god
mama oh my god
papa if that is so awful
shameful then why should anyone
throw his her mind into my pants
my heart my private self i am
god baby just like they are
just like you are
i love you both
i love god
god loves me
A Good Holt
by John Foust
I am giving you these words to savor your heartaches.
Am I? I give words to you, salt and pepper, heartaches.
I talk about cold morning and the lift they bring.
The cold splashing of the springs assault icy heartaches.
Standing in the wind waiting for the bus all my life,
It is good to feel warm hands on the vault of heartaches.
Running, all the time running with fare to catch love.
The doors open stepping up, I jolt fares into heartaches.
On the sidewalk, in the coats and swishing, I am alone.
Walking down the street, wrenches bolt tight heartaches.
Row strong in the winter waters of the human stream,
Keep warm, keep a good holt on your hidden heartaches.
by Janet Anderson
consider the bliss sitting
absolutely still, your
mind completely numbed.
no free-fall ideas trickling
off into childhood, or tomorrows,
uneasy to be human, to feel
like an outcast with a brutal
imagination. To beat and beat
yourself against your slab of mind,
the convolution of colors raking
into a long, white, outstretched reach,
the flame groping for the spread
of fire, the floating, diving words
wanting out, freedom
from discrimination, freedom
to be, to clam your own bones
to nest in.
First Honorable Mention:
by Susan Luther
In the middle of the night I felt the urge.
Got up, and went down the hall. It was not
my house, but — not exactly strange either. I knew
where to find the necessary door. Business finished,
I turned the doorknob back into the room
I had come from. which… wasn’t. Was unfamiliar
hostile darkness — half awake, a blank abyss, nothing
to know who or where I was by, like the time,
staring at Uniform Reality in the reception line
I forgot my own name. No shred of illumination,
adjusted vision. Only black on black
vertigo, the floor capsizing underneath.
Is this how you felt when Alzheimer’s first
augured holes — boarded entrances — into your mind?
How you felt before, under the sentence of your daughter’s
(to you) banish-imperative not-in-my-house bad news? Is this
how she felt you felt have felt feel, others feel, trapped
in telescoping rooms of denial panic incomprehension
difference Open the door Open the door OPEN THE DOOR
Second Honorable Mention
the right to be very human
by Catherine Moran
And I say,
being human holds all the glamour
of a rainy picnic on Mars.
We have to fashion our own umbrellas
to hold the elements at bay,
and juggle to keep
the food warm and ready.
All the while we project a certain image
demanded by the social circle.
Those who don’t look like they belong,
are left drifting into puddles
and being soaked by stray drops.
And I say,
everyone has a right to be warm and dry
at the picnic.
Loving and caring for another person
is the most basic human gift
we can bestow on each other.
matters little when it comes to kindness.
And when one person
the deep humanity of another with a spirit
of love and concern,
we are being the best creatures we can be.
And I say,
what people wear or
with whom they prefer to spend their time
become such a minor issue.
In a world where humanity can
dish out meanness like a leftover casserole,
any semblance of compassion
is as welcome as fresh thyme.
Being human has its drawbacks.
If we can open the umbrella a little wider,
the picnic can progress
with everyone dry
and plenty to eat.
Third Honorable Mention
by Caren Renee Davidson
You met the cold hammer
Cast from Vulcan’s own fury.
You chose to have the fires
Show the sameness
of your face.
You are still Prometheus