2019 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize finalist selected by judge Eric Morago
There is just a haunting, lyric quality to this poem that just struck me. But, there is also a clear narrative thread being woven throughout the piece. There is a beautiful dance in this poem between abstract and concrete imagery that works in such striking juxtaposition to its subject matter. There is complexity here, but also an emotional accessibility—in how it is easy for the reader to be anchored in the heart of this poem and be carried by the poet’s voice throughout. I am in awe at how the poet is able to make everything work in this poem, and am better for reading it.
— Alexis Rhone Fancher
My Little Cousin Came to America Armed With Just a Phone Number & Four English Words – “I Am a Refugee”
in some dawn my life glows mud.
what i pray for is what scares me the most.
i look to the world & all there is history.
to eat rain is to get close to loss.
i read the news and wait to feel in my heart
why we create laws that drag families from
one hell into the next. there is a wall between
the river & the thirsty. i mean i gaze at moths
& dream about children walking into a country
chaperoned by crows. in another country,
the president is a fascist. no one wants to know
what’s in his head. to think of tenderness, there
must be an object— i remember all my fears
& the places children wake. if living requires
internment, then i choose to stay with all my hunger.
my brothers kiss guns as a form of ablution. name it
things like metering & border walls. i am going to run outside
& whisper: do we need the spectacle of corpses to make
the inhuman policies real? why is it always windows
in my head? i come back to a poem that begins with mirrors.
i come back to tell you something: these days, i am busy
stitching my breath with something that has snapped
into two: wild light until i can stand its brightness & call it acceptance.
there is always a place for hope, for ordinary days in the hills
of the future—a mode of optimism & a place for us to forget
the lesson in the old hurts that mark our kneaded body.