HOW is proud to present the winners of our 2011 fiction and poetry contests. All winners’ work will appear in Issue #9 of HOW.
The poetry contest was judged by Honor Moore. Out of hundreds of submissions, Honor Moore awarded first place to the writer Kathleen Hellen for the following poems.
Autobiography of a Penny
A single scream announced the engine of her leaving.
My mother’s satin dress the sound of rain. The scent
of Tabu lingering, confusing absence with
her presence. Trains blew the direction she was going.
I ran to catch her signals, shinnied up the lookout,
shook and shook until the peaches fell. She never looked
to see if I was up there in that leaving. Bruised or
green. Once I dreamed she suddenly came back.
I put an ear to thunder on the track, counted
absence as the backbone of a tunnel. Once I left
a penny but the train did not derail. I climbed out
of the copper— changed. Another thing entirely
We do not know the things that mark us
I never knew for sure
the conscience that she kept, her presence sedative,
agent of the hands so cold that touched my forehead,
tucked me into bed. Tied the socks around my wrists.
No pock exists to tell of it. No blemish
I say she taught me how to love
if it was love that brought her to my
room those nights I swelled— or sore,
or if I lured her with a fever. There were others
their spines let go, the dim-lit rail slipping through
her fingers’ studied distance.
Did her fall recall the thing a woman does
when she is less than heaven? More than rib?
A back room with a coat hanger. A hose.
Did she drink the slip of purple blooming
bruises on her cheek? Quinine. Castor oil.
Did she jump the tangled cord? The naked bed
she never wanted
The Summer We Were Hungry
After rain, she digs out with a spatula
the dappled milk— our fill
of fawn-gilled, cream or
browning in a skillet
the spores our bellies quarrel over. Butter
salt. If there is some
or we do without. True morel or failure
is a Chinese hat
A coma. The harvest
ghost of moons might bring her back
as noses press to glass inside
the deadly Pontiac. We are fast—
already sleeping. Goat’s head—
if she finds it— fries like steak
Kathleen Hellen is a poet and the author of The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Awards include the 2012 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Prize in poetry. Her work has appeared recently in Cimarron Review; The Evansville Review; Harpur Palate; Poemeleon; Poetry Northwest; among others; and on WYPR’s “The Signal.” She is senior editor for the Baltimore Review.