Poem of the Week: ‘Another May 22nd’ by Brandon Williams

Cultured Vultures Poem of the Week

After a week off, Cultured Vultures’ Poem of the Week is back and better than ever. The competition was as tight as it ever has been for this edition and after plenty of deliberation, we were able to choose a winner.

As always, let’s first take a look at the excellent 2nd and 3rd place poems.

 

3rd Place
‘Hinged’ by Gary Glauber

He saw the huge cast-iron gate.

Somewhere inside this barrier

she lived, attended classes,

found a new world beyond him.

 

Thinking she was the one

was a stupid notion at 17,

a universe of possibilities

coaxing them from innocence.

 

Finding others was only hard

when become a singular purpose.

It was like picking apples

 

late in the year after a dry season.

 

The popular ones had attitude;

the others reeked of desperation.

In blue jeans at a late inebriated hour

you could hardly tell them apart.

 

Like cattle grazing on the horizon,

love stood at a respectful resolve:

shaking its head, chewing the cud

of past relationships.

 

His preference for lace over leather

was a moot point, irrelevant,

a passport that every customs agent

urgently refused to check.

 

Left to his own devices,

he writes pointless words

to capture his frustrations,

to battle that imposing gate,

to remember and forget.

 

2nd Place
‘Dénouement’ by RC DeWinter

Our electricity blew the walls open.
We destroyed everything –
the house, garage and acres of land
for miles around,
a conflagration to rival Pompeii.
I awoke covered in ash and satisfaction
and smiled at the reach of our intersection.
You did too, eventually.

I should have known such intensity couldn’t last,
but, reduced to bleached bones shimmering eroticism,
I was incapable of rational thought.
I expected we would blow
the whole damn world to smithereens
but you turned coward
and slipped out the back door
while I was sleeping.

You sent me roses; why, I don’t know.
There was nothing of love or delicacy about us.
Our collision was a trainwreck
of desire too long denied.
But you, reluctant arsonist,
sent me roses.
They sit on my table
as I wait for them to wither.

 

1st Place
‘Another May 22nd’ by Brandon Williams

There is a birthday card in the mailbox
from a woman I’ve met a few times.
My grandmother, my father’s mother,
a memory of Church dresses and gag-me perfume.
The card is always cute, always mothering,
always guilt-inspiring –
I reach for the phone.

She has a voice like a taco-shop quesadilla,
thick and warm and greasy.
We talk about my aunts and uncles,
about Jana’s two kids and the baby on the way
and Chuck’s promotion to lieutenant at the fire department
and Steve who just made E-7 in the Corps
and Jason’s running his own Taco Bell now
and she’s great and I’m great and everybody’s doing great.
I write down the genealogy updates for my mother.
The conversation lags, as it always does.
I look out the window, see a bird with blue wings
dipping its head into a bush.
If it comes out with a worm in its beak, with an easy metaphor
or something life-sustaining, I don’t notice.
I’m thinking about the next five minutes;
we have this conversation twice a year.
The pause stagnates like rainwater in a bucket,
until she breaks it with the expected question.
“Have you found Jesus Christ?” No.
Then the long-winded explanation of the way
he finds everyone in the end, gentle admonishments
preceded by, “Well, you know I don’t want to pry.”
Bible quotations, last Sunday’s preacher
and his powerful message.
The conversation is filler,
aspirin for metaphysical headaches,
a finger in the dam until her ultimate question breaks free.
“Do you want to know,” she asks,
and I say no. No, I don’t
want to know anything about my father,
about the correctional facility where he works
or the way he’s turned his life around.
She says she understands, but her voice is low
and she ends the call after just a few more comments.
“Someday,” she tells me each time, “you’ll want to know,”
and each time I refuse I feel the rift widening.

Brandon in his own words: “A graduate of the University of California, Riverside. His work has most recently appeared in Black Clock, Connu, Solo Novo, and MIRAMAR. He was a finalist in the William Richey Short Story Contest. A product of northern California, he finds himself constantly called back to the Sierra Nevada Gold Country.”

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