Winter 2012 — Valentine's Day
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Tupelo Press ran the Winter 2012 edition of the Poetry Project. The challenge was simple: write a stunningly good erotic poem. Be bad. Be good and bad. Editors for the winter edition were Jeffrey Levine, Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press, and Marie Gauthier, Director of Sales & Marketing of Tupelo Press and author of Hunger All Inside (Finishing Line Press).
Check out our new anthology of erotic poetry, Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke, the culmination of the Winter 2012 Poetry Project. Congratulations to our 30 contributing poets and a special thank you to all who submitted entries to the contest!
First, second, and third place are as follows:
in alphabetical order by the author’s last name
in alphabetical order by the author's last name
The winning poems can be read below.
"Dialogue with Gaps"
by Jeneva Stone
These meadows themselves open, brush the horizon
and was the—
it were she says
it were what
she says he’s sorry
he says she’s right
she says she arrives
and why not
Some meadows flayed by wind, pinned by trees
she says she remembers
she says she liked it
she says what of it
Arrive then, riding between trees, legs clasped
what he says
the matter was her
These trees in these meadows green at the tips
her nipples were
her eyes were
her hair was
her mouth formed
her thighs opened
That grass coarse against which some lay back
his hair black
his hands spread
his lips hard
his eyes closed
his mouth wide
Among trees overhead leaves curl like hair
observe she says
what he says
where he is
matter she says
and he rides on
A meadow, distant now, each line of grass arrayed against another
her green fingers reach
she reaches further
Jeneva Stone's poems and nonfiction have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Colorado Review, The Collagist, RHINO, and many others. She is the recipient of 2012 fellowships from the MacDowell and Millay Colonies for her memoir about her disabled son's undiagnosed illness. She most hopes, though, you will respect her in the morning.
"O Honey, Won’t You Rock My World Up North"
by Aubrey Ryan
The snow will go for days, our road
keep trackless, and the lamplight
spill then stay. You’re gold
in wool and overalls; you’re a sight
to see: my man. One pear, one pound
of chestnuts in a paper bag, one kettle set
to burst. I’m smooth and round;
I’m a shallow bowl of oil: so sweet
for flame. Bring shovel, bring
salt and light a match to me—my bones
will melt. Honey, ring
me in garland: I’m a festival. Our home
is in the branches of jack pine. Our bedposts hum
like hives. Take this body. We’ll make a wet thaw come.
Aubrey Ryan’s work has appeared recently or is soon-to-be in Best New Poets 2011, Quarterly West, Booth, Squat Birth Journal and Cellpoems. Aubrey lives in Iowa with her husband and their son, who is the best muse of all.
by Amy Dryansky
A week of nonnegotiable fantasy, days
of unmovable image—in a locked room,
against a door, in front of the window.
I, of course, am wearing a skirt, stockings
holding onto my thighs. You look
and then look down. You think
what you think. There’s only this table
between us – a slight expanse
of wood and steel, file cabinets,
note-taking. You rely on me
and I you, not to. But I’m undependable
with the right kind of pressure.
I look outside at the land you love
clearing its throat, preparation
for singing. We have an understanding.
A bridge arches over the river, river
rises to meet it, pigeons fly out
from the dark underneath, and starlings
rise and fall in parabolic sweeps, glissandos
drawn from architecture and math, music
almost impossible to play.
Amy Dryansky’s first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and her second, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013. She teaches at Hampshire College and writes about the territory of mother/poet at her blog, Pokey Mama.
in alphabetical order by the author’s last name
by Lisa Coffman
Before buttons and unbuttoning,
before the lock fell to the key
or the prelude gave away parts of the opus
you had your practice, an adept,
you kept your X’d map of our coordinates
you went on setting your little traps of pillows.
I can’t flatter you sufficiently:
your indecent shine (like glimpsing a zipper)
your tongue loosing words off what they cover.
In broad daylight you smack of the ample bed
over a truck hood or luncheonette table.
I’d have been so upright without you–
kinks all still in my spine–
and no touching faith in the seasonal.
Naughty: the lines you blur but won’t erase.
Tan line, lip line, language of a contract.
Strewn softness swamping the tooth,
balm to the wound, and wound giver, and wound,
you won’t let us pretend
wet belongs to the other element.
by Christopher Cokinos
Legs, pressed together, keep a shadow there.
The dark between thighs,
another variation of the frond.
Sometimes I push my cock
between my legs to see what difference likes.
I’ll yearn for space
inside me, the strange
fullness of entry, conjunctions.
The photo on my wall.
A stranger’s smooth skin, four lines
converging to her sex,
beside a postcard
of the fossil palm, dark hand in stone, evidence
of ancient lushness in the present’s desert,
how likeness found or crafted makes desire
no longer secret
Outside, above the river,
what flew then flies now:
Water striders press down like fingers.
A wing is spread. Feathers part.
Our bodies are fans that open.
Force invented the frond, as the frond
begets force, and rain falls
or slickness rises to glisten surfaces in time,
and light arrives on all of it.
Yes, yes, how I want these shapes, how I want these shapes
the way these shapes want themselves–
by Anna Claire Hodge
We climb each other like a rock face, grab
at ears, nipples for holds. Stacked limbs
are cairn, monument. The insects
spiral round our column, the false eyes:
violet, cerulean, navy repeating.
Not the familiar Monarch flit
and go, sidewalk moment landers, little
tickle on the nose or forearm in the Butterfly
Rainforest, a children's museum.
They bump the second-story
glass until it gives, stream in the window
the night you cry in my bed, powder of the wings
mixes with brackish lines on your face. They black
out the lights, the thread-thin antennae touching
my hair, your hands in it.
Exhausted, they quiet. The largest lands
on your chest, flattens itself like a collapsed
circus tent. Stripe upon bright stripe, quilt
of jewel. Then, your hands folding mine into
letters, signing to me with my own fingers,
as if even shouted I might not hear.
by Janet R. Kirchheimer
This is what he fells me.
He’s never been with anyone so errata,
how he bloves all the blings I do to whim.
That’s the vermouth.
He says hell be there forever.
I coo the girl fling, mold on.
And there he flows, out of my wife.
I still steal his touch, his misses,
want to fall him, come up with any season.
He left his thanks in the hamper,
his iplod in my fish tank.
I want to bring them clover to him.
Take me whack.
I want you lack.
This is what I drink.
I’m just a tool for love
as the song throws,
a drool, a ghoul,
a pool for blove.
"Aubade for Peter Pan"
by Molly Spencer
He slips his shadow from the drawer, sees it fall, a rivulet of breath, to the floor. His skin leaps
up, as if to claim it. He breathes the bitter tang of sweat and years, sees again where deepest
wounds have stained it. Thinks for a moment of rolling it up again, closing the drawer and flying
on, without the shadow or the girl, the mess of it all. But once she says, I’ll stitch it back on, once
she begins at the heel, he knows he’s lost his chance to refuse the pinprick of bone-white needle
held soft in her hand. He tries to hold still. The piercing of skin, the thin blade of her warmth
on his as she pulls the soul-thread taut, deep like a root. The edge of lost shadow on found skin,
dark as a plum. Her light and depths now woven into his. Their shadows, always telling truth
but slantwise. He decides to stay here in this ever-land. It feels like home.
in alphabetical order by the author’s last name
by Cynthia Rausch Allar
Even as I lie here, in this cavern,
on this wide bed, half-empty now,
staring into the white
of the vaulted ceiling, in this echo
on the edge of Toledo, hollow
in this corner of Ohio,
two thousand miles from where she,
in California, in the clutter of a crowded room I cannot
imagine, a room I’ve never seen,
lies asleep on the featherbed I gave her, deep
in another life, another time,
in her mother’s house in Altadena,
even as I lie here waiting
for my life, for ours, sometimes the myrrh
of her hair, the mothwing of her cheek,
they come to me. If I close my eyes,
the flute of her murmured I love you, the smoke
of her eyes come, her nectar sheen,
sometimes the iron tang of her
clitoris beneath my tongue, she comes
to me, two thousand miles folded
into a breath
between us, sometimes her mouth,
her tongue, her palms, sometimes
her fingers, come the heat, the slow-sweet spasm,
through the ether, the embrace,
till my eyes open once again
into this white vault.
"On the Merits of Lingerie"
by Michelle Bitting
My friend has her breasts removed:
I rediscover lace. Lady-in-waiting
bedside, I keep vigil as sutures settle,
thrust two forearms under blanketed
knees so she can scoot upright,
sip meatball soup fetched from cafeteria.
Back home, dig an ancient teddy
from the crypt of forgotten garments
and glide into pitch satin,
remembering how I’d lost my way
weaving back from the cafeteria,
self-recriminations concerning vanity,
the body’s tyranny. Brand new hospital
and many rooms empty. Fresh carpet,
paint—pristine wings ignorant
of suffering to come: incessant thumbs
pressed to morphine buttons. My friend was dozing
when I found her again, a few wisps
of gray dream fallen to one side
of her smooth crown. That night
my husband brandished his flesh
and I fell on it, more in love suddenly
than I’d recalled, reaching
down for the little curtain:
I swept aside black silk and let death enter.
"The Last Time"
by Paula Brancato
I drink alone in the bar of the Peninsula,
thinking of a man I asked to bed.
What if I said I loved you?
You make me feel gentle,
as he dressed and walked away.
by Gillian Cummings
The moment he took my body to his, the world was water. I heard rain, rain on the sidewalk
of Passage de Flandre, rain on the boulevards, rain on the tin roofs, a thrumming so hard it
could only be made of softness. I saw trees slick, bare and black in the showers sheeting the
city. And one tree I saw clearly, a silhouette of elm. One branch, one twig, I saw. How a drop
of water clung and in its orb a shine, as from a streetlamp. How a second drop fell on the
first, and together they swelled so full they quivered—it was all they could do not to break, to
hold on. And heavy, too heavy to bear their union, they fell to the sidewalk beneath the tree,
not knowing what became of themselves—
"Stopping by the Old Classroom"
by Darla Himeles
Empty desks smeared with pencil,
air sticky, redolent of your morning
To think how I taught
while reading you in the air
your careless walk,
slight tilt of chin, quick eyes,
body long against my desk.
To think our flames seared this space—
old furniture melted
like your folds, delicate between teeth.
"I Sip a Martini"
by Mary Ann Mayer
You talk about notes—
A minor 7th and playing the frets.
I’m looking at your crotch;
tight denim, orange threads, steel rivets.
Something hard in my throat.
I study your knee,
over the stool.
To two olives with pimento,
side by side, Adam & Eve
on a toothpick,
floating high above the gin.
[now we're older the body worship turns]
—after Feng Menlong's "Idiot Thoughts," tr. by Tony Barnstone
by Liz Robbins
now we're older the body worship turns
now the erotic inside out in some ways better not
to consume you so hard the needle pricking the arm
for the sedative now the teaspoon of sugar thought
slowly planned in the morning for night tea this
the stage of gentle past only certain kinds of peril
yet when you are away my thoughts hurry you home
my nose fitting your neck's hollow for the garland
of leaves your self still to me as on childhood's
Block Island beach overturning the white clam shell
the surprise bolt of purple wampum what Native
Americans fashion into sacred beads now your beloved
loons are back circling the lake and the splash of white
face paint reminds me of chalk how the infinite stars
will be out soon even they dots on a board an equation
one day outdated pinpricks kisses on skin
"GIVE AND TAKE"
by Bruce Willard
In Rangiroa, on the balcony of our fare,
I was fading like the moon, thinning
like the call of the frigate bird
in the palms
when you took me
in, behind you, at the railing
and I gave long
because of your giving –
our mouths taking in
the molten air, our ears
taking in the wind,
the tide taking in
sand, giving back
before darkened water.