“Turkeys” by Barbara Lange

2014 Salveson Prize in Poetry

I saw five wild

turkeys in a frozen field,

scratching icy clods of dirt,

meandering through broken

stalks of last season’s corn. Unaware

of our passing, unperturbed

by the highway

or us, riding in silence.

The only sound between us

the rhythm of the tires on the road.

You, driving stiff and silent. Your face

hard as the unyielding ground

they just kept scratching. Me,

forehead against frigid window,

looking out, wishing I could join them,

trade our icy silence for

the warmth of winter sun

on frozen clods and broken stalks.

“Some of the Reasons” by Dana Yost

Some of the Reasons

By Dana Yost
 

I am still alive.

Some days, this surprises me,

like when I pass a mirror

and see full flesh, dark hair

and spectacles upon my nose.

That’s me, I might say,

as if it could be someone else.

That’s not the point.

This is: maybe there wouldn’t have been anyone

in that mirror.

I could have been under dirt,

mortician’s clean-up job not perfectly

resolving the gashes up my arms,

the lipstick of my mother’s kiss

to the forehead

long faded to something like a stain

on a filthy found-on-a-café-floor napkin.

But here I am.

I wave to myself,

and it waves back.

No trick mirror,

no time machine.

But science, faith, sunshine, time.

Wife, son.

The chance of stirring a heron

from the fringes of Bear Lake.

Pumpkin pie, melting ice cream.

Neighbor’s little white dog, yapping like just-married tin cans

tied to someone’s bumper flapping down the road.

Then silence: it’s licking my nose.

A brown-haired singer on a Sunday morning

with her acoustic guitar,

voice true and longing,

hymns

so spare

there is beauty

in the silence

between the notes.

“Murder on the Highway” by David Rask Behling

Murder on the Highway

By David Rask Behling
 

Crows crouch, squabble, work

at a furry meal on the road,

wings outstretched, flapping,

as they dine. Driving

too fast, thinking about work,

I hit one…

black feathers, skin and bone

smack, skitter, scratch across

the metal skin. Then silence resonates

as the lifeless thing falls.

The rest of the mob sails

over ditches and fields, except

one glides low across the barren fields,

circles, circles, circles,

then lightly alights with a twist

by the rumpled heap. She skips

from side to side―the wife, the lover…

I see this truth immediately―her eye bent

and bright, her beak open. She calls

out to the feathered heap, flapping

wings outstretching, an old woman

garbed in black, fluttering, feathery fingers

reaching for one who is no longer there.

Disappearing in the mirror behind me:

a motionless silhouette.

“Chasing Me” by La Wanda Garrett

Chasing Me

By La Wanda Garrett
 

I walk the streets alone at night

emptiness closely following behind

searching shadows for any sign of light

chasing after the distant hum of laughter,

the laughter of a little girl

smiling, showing off missing teeth,

pigtails taming her wild mane

pink flowery dress draping her body

white stockings lining her chunky legs

shiny black dress shoes protecting her feet.

Instead, I catch a glimpse in a store front window

of another girl, older, frowning,

her eyes as dark as the night

face hidden in the shadows

cast by her navy hoodie

and baggy sweats,

her feet housed by tattered boots.

 

“Cherry Street” by Kevin Moore

Cherry Street

By Kevin Moore
 

I took her home

to the small white house with the blue trim

around the windows,

just off Cherry Street.

Her mother wouldn’t be home

for hours.

There’s a first time for everything

I thought to myself

as I wiped my sweaty palms

across the backside of my faded jeans.

I could blame it on first time jitters

I suppose.

I put on some Marvin Gaye

That’s a little cliché,

she said with a giggle

while taking off her bra.

It was mind-blowing,

that’s how I put it.

She thought interesting was more fitting.

I guess sex can be interesting, does that mean it was bad?

Whatever,

it was still special for both of us

I think.

 

 

I saw her once more after that night

in the third column of the

Kelly Caldwell, age 19

struck by a drunk driver

on her way to

Silver Bay, Minnesota.

She was going to see her Dad.

What a terrible way to die.

I often think about her

and that night.

When I took her home

to that small white house

with the blue trim

around the windows,

just off Cherry Street.

“Mourning Music” by LeAnn Nash

Mourning Music

By LeAnn Nash
 

Rain

sings a surprise symphony,

pounding the street,

 

feeding an unloved swamp,

each root drowning,

 

A circle of death

celebrated by blossoms.

 

Morning wind

burns a wicked tune,

evaporating the nectar

of a wild spring.

 

Love plays a tentative tune

plunging out the door,

running headlong for the place

where eternity will dissolve,

notes floating heavenward

rejoining the eternal chorus.

 

“Six Letters That Shouldn’t Need to be Written” by Kaylin Tlam

Six Letters That Shouldn’t Need to be Written

By Kaylin Tlam

 

Dear Love,

You missed me again. I’m thinking your aim has gone to

shit since we last met. Maybe you should think about

buying bigger arrows. Or at least take some lessons

from Robin Hood. Maybe then you’ll hit something,

and it’ll stay hit. It won’t be gone in two days like

it didn’t happen in the first place.

 

Dear Kid-Sitting Next to Me in Wellness,

I still remember your face when they told us the box

we drew in on the right was our true selves.

The way your eyes widened,

as I drew an alien that was bent to exterminate the human race.

For that one moment, filled with awkward laughter,

You believed it, didn’t you?

 

Dear Prince Charming,

You really like messing with kid’s minds.

Because of you, Mary won’t fight for herself.

She thinks that some ‘boy wonder’ will do it for her.

Little Timmy tries to take on a monster.

He gets himself killed before Mary can run home in tears.

It’s times like these I wonder why people say fairy tales aren’t real

Dear Blackbird,

Why don’t people notice you more? You’re lucky.

The way you can fly anywhere, land anywhere, and people forgive you for it.

Even when you and your friends are digging through my trash,

And root out all my empty bottles and cans of cheap ravioli,

I can still forgive you for the litter you leave behind.

Nothing’s quite so black, or as beautiful as you.

Is it such a crime if I sing along, too?

 

Dear Girl Next Door,

You’re an idiot. Falling in love with a door-slamming psycho like him?

What is wrong with you? You have to realize that he’s not one to hang around.

One day, you’ll say something wrong; you’ll convince him you’re not as

forgiving with his obnoxious self-loathing as he thinks, and he’ll be out the door.

He knows he’s not worth the annoyance.

He’s not worth dealing with his madness, his darkness, or his mood swings.

What this is, what you think this is, isn’t as real as the wrenching of your gut,

Or the walls shuddering when he leaves home for the last time.

What makes you think you can fight off his past?

What makes you think you can save him from himself?

 

Dear Nerdy Fantasies,

Why can’t I live in you, rather than this apocalyptic apartment?

Why haven’t I gotten my letter to Hogwarts? Why hasn’t the Doctor

appeared in his blue box to take me away to the other side of the universe?

Why hasn’t my X-Gene kicked in, and made me as invincible as Wolverine,

so I don’t have to worry about dying, or getting hurt anymore?

Why is it that I can only visit you when I’m supposed to be growing up?

“Santa Ana, CA” by Justin Nguyen

Santa Ana, CA

By Justin Nguyen
 

this is for the child with the back pocket holster

for a father

the one who holds God in his right hand

and cups tears in his left

for the one who finds power

in poisoning the powerless

because the only way he knows how lift his chin up

is propping it on someone else’s shoulder

for the one whose dinner needed to be thawed

and poked to perforate the lack of a mother’s smell

 

his classroom was the canvas

of government owned white walls

where the greatest lessons were scrolled

so passerbys could read his insides

and grade him on his relative genius

 

his origins were indigenous

to the street light lined runways

but every flight out was delayed or canceled

 

his skin

thicker than the cigarette smoked filled air

would make it impossible to fit through the cracks of open doors

 

with no one to hold on to

no escape route to be blazed

his fate conceived within a manila misfortune

 

finger steady on his lifeline

his future destined to fall flat

without a blip on the screen

 

his passing would be considered another

fad of the weak tragedy

with his blood stained t-shirt the new trend

 

his remembrance futile

a shiny stone lays to embody all he was

but there’s not enough room to tell of all the stories

all the times

where he laid with fists clenched and arms crossed

looking up at the fifth wall

wondering if the barrel of the revolver

finally spun on the losing cylinder

ending a life predestined to fall on probability

 

this is the chance that too many beings are borned into

separated by black gloves and white coated horsemen

where self-preservation only knows its existence

through misinformed

through uneducated

through brainwashed genocide

 

“Reasons Why I Love My Mother” by Marisa Donnelly

2013 Salveson Prize in Poetry 

I am

not what you say

though my scrambled eggs

are always runny,

corners of wheat toast brown,

Purple and yellow

are complimentary colors—

I forgot this

just as I failed to remember

it was cranberry you wanted

not orange juice.

Our front staircase

now holds carpet casualties—

spilled egg,

shards of the kitchen china,

small pieces: gold, red, blue.

You woke, sitting up on your hands

commotion called you from sleep

my failed attempt

of breakfast in bed.

I am not a disappointment—

ribbons, balloons, streamers

handwritten notes on napkins

paper signs happy mother’s day

Forgiveness speaks loudest

in our shared fork,

two lip prints on the orange juice glass.

 

“The Sheep Shearers” by Joe Wilkins

The Sheep Shearers

By Joe Wilkins
 

A distinct culture has evolved out of the practice of shearing sheep.

– Wikipedia entry

 

All long necks and whiskers and three-day hangovers

sweated out on the peeling linoleum of some low-slung camper,

all greasy jeans and pearl snapshirts undone to the belly,

all black coffee and cigarettes and potted meat—

 

no one respectable, that’s for sure.

Though come March, it wasn’t about respectable.

From behind the old sofa, you watched Johnny Ahern

sprawl in a chair at the kitchen table,

 

wet trail of snoose dripping from his frog’s chin—

your mother fed him three kinds of pie,

your father shook his gnarled hand—

hand that could take a sheep to skin

 

in seconds—and said, Thanks for coming, Johnny.

Lord and the devil know we need you.

 

*

 

Skinny as a barn cat, the one that knocked on the door

and came in for chamomile tea and visit with your mother.

Her face was square and small, a ribbon of scar

from ear to chin, and after her small cup she rolled

 

a cigarette, tapped the ash into her palm. She was one of those

that could have been twenty-three or forty-two. No matter,

what you remember most is how her straw hair

was pulled back with flowers. It was yet mid-winter.

 

She must have grown them in whichever

rusted Airstream she called home, carried them in her lap

through a thousand icy miles of mountain two-lane,

set them in the sink after the table was broke down

 

into a marriage bed. And now, ringing her wrecked face—

umber buds, filigree of leaf, a crown of wild rose.

 

*

 

Milk-faced and bare-chested, trousers gone to threads,

they stood in a ragged line and stared at you. You

stared back. They didn’t speak but turned and ran

to the river. So, you followed. Picked up a rock,

 

like they did, and winged it at a carp. Together,

you floated a hunk of cottonwood to the far bank,

set a muskrat trap, jostled and laughed, and when the sheep

were sheared—the men gone into town for liquor,

 

women gathering dogs and laundry—

you sat on the steps and worked river mud

from in between your toes, felt with each breath the bluing bruise

on your chest, where, after she threw you to the ground,

 

that dark-eyed shearer’s girl propped a knee to pin you

and kissed you hard on the mouth.

“86 Jersey” by Abbie Leavens

86 Jersey

By: Abbie Leavens
 
Girls know how to do that—
Flaunt their breasts
through their blouses,
learn how to smile,
how to sexy-scowl
at the Neanderthal
with the number 86 Jersey.
He is staked, a little sweaty.
His handprint, a coaster
for the next Bud Light bottle.
When he leaves for the bathroom to piss of his night
he shoots you a look like
you’d better not leave without me,
but you do.
This isn’t a happy ending, small town.
You know he has your number.
You know you answer every time.
 

“The Ash Grove” by Daisy Wallace

The Ash Grove

By: Daisy Wallace
 

The ash grove we planted is still there;

Dirt under our nails, cricks in our backs, but

We planted all thoserows of trees that day.

They have grown tall with thick, rough, trunks.

The diamonds in the bark are all but gone,

the ridges so deep.

The Tin Lizze is still rusting in the tall grass, but

In a month, a man will come, take it to his garage,

Sand it down,

Rebuild the engine, and the rest.

I’m sorry, but

He will not paint it the pearl violet you always loved.