Sharyl Heber
Beanie’s Flowers
 Why does Beanie think I need a fresh bouquet every morning? I know he filches flowers from Tucker’s garden. He leaves licorice sticks in our mailbox and cold soda pops on my windowsill in summer. I walk to piano lessons, he’s on my tail. He pretends to cool from the sun on our porch swing, but he’s there in the rain as well.
“He’s just being sweet, Cally.” Mama says, admirin’ his pilfered jar of snapdragons from the kitchen door. Sweet. Maybe so, except for the chill he leaves behind.
Sweet draws wasps.
I’ve known Beanie Cramer since we were toddlers. We’re seventeen now and he’s always been scrawny and scruffy. Beanie’s ma claims he’s schooled-at-home. All I can see is a   stutterin’ dimwit. I’m sure he’s broken and shamed but does he have to take me down with him? 
I’m hanging laundry in the sun and he’s lurking.
“Beanie! Can you give me some peace?” But, he just freezes there, glarin’ at me.
Addin’ eerie to irritation, last month, a girl my age was cut up and left for buzzard-chow in the cornfields.
“Get going or I’m telling your Pa!” I shout at him.
He scoffs, then backs off, kickin’ up dirt with his shoes. He eyes the path to the main road, but he’s not budging.
“Howdy, Beanie,” Mama calls out. “Stay for supper?” He shakes his head with a fired-up no, gives me a look like his entire life is one long funeral march, then shuffles on home.
Next morning I hear Mama on the phone, “No. Good God!” She hangs up, grabs me by the arm and sits me down in the kitchen. 
“Mazy Otis has gone missin’,” she says, clutching at her blouse.
I think on this for a minute. “I just saw Mazy yesterday, buying plaid for a skirt project. She was real excited that her pa was gonna let her ride horseback in the July parade.”
“Cally.” Mama grips my hand so hard it hurts. “Somethin’ evil’s goin’ on. Be extra careful, hear me? Don’t be goin’ out alone. You and your friends, go in twos, promise? And your daddy, he’ll drive you if he’s not working.” Then she adds, “Or, get Beanie to walk you.”
What I don’t tell Mama is that Beanie Cramer was outside the Stitch-N-Time watching Mazy as she went skipping home.  
A week goes by and no sign of Mazy. They’ve deputized Postman Wilbur and hired some big city investigator to make rounds and search the fields. I’m trying to take Mama’s advice and buddy up, but I’ve got a music lesson and Chrissy and Babs are both busy. 
“I’m goin’ to piano,” I shout to Mama.
“Who’s going with you?” She follows me outside.
“Babs” I lie. Mama won’t check and Babs doesn’t have a phone in her house anyway. 
I step out on the porch and nearly trip over a new jar of purple and yellow pansies.
Criminy, Beanie, just leave me be, will you? 
Mama grins and arranges the flowers up on the porch rail like they’re actually appreciated.
It’s half a mile past Four Corners Junction then a long driveway up to Miss Mertle’s house. I’m watchful as I go. If I catch wind of something, I’ll hightail it. I’m fast as a jackrabbit. Partway there, I look back. Beanie Cramer’s behind me. 
“What do you want, Beanie?” I yell at him. He doesn’t answer, but surveys the crossroads. “Where’s Mazy?”
He hangs his head, shufflin’ his feet, then pulls at his mangy blonde hair. I can tell he’s frettin’ over somethin’. I pick up my pace. He stays in step.
“My parents know exactly where I am!” I shout, but my voice is small on the wind. There’s no one to help me out here.
Beanie stops, shakes his head and raises his arms up to the sky. He mouths a curious sound; a long, raspy kind of wail. If I couldn’t see the boy wobblin’ on two spindly legs I’d swear he was a cornered mountain lion.
He disappears back the way he came and I suffer through a distracted piano lesson. “If you’re not going to apply yourself, Cally Beecham,” Miss Myrtle complains, “don’t bother coming back!”
Next afternoon, Mama rushes in from market with a load of scuttlebutt.
“Listen up, Cally Jean. According to Sheriff Grady, Beanie Cramer’s not been far from the scene! He’s been following those girls! That inspector man is over at his place right now givin’ the Cramers the third degree!”
Mama’s not so keen on Beanie’s sweet gestures now.
Beanie. Could it really be? Peculiar and irksome as summer skeeters, but... murderer? I hug myself to make sure I’m safe and think on all the isolated places I’ve been with that boy—Purdy’s orchards, Yellow Rock Gully. Heck, apart from our skimpy blacktop Main Street, this corncob town is nothing but lonesome dirt roads.
A knock on our window shocks me back to the kitchen. Sheriff Grady calls Mama out to the porch. I hear snippets through the whispers.  
“Just checking to see that your girl is okay.”
Mama glances at me through the screen door. Chewing her nails, so she must be rattled. “Cally’s fine,” she says. I hear my name and join her outside.
I look over at Grady’s car. In the back seat is Beanie’s pa, Mr. Cramer. He waves at me so I can see his handcuffs. Ratty gray beard, yellow teeth; the man has a wild look in his eyes he keeps lasered in my direction.
Beanie races up on his bike. He leaps, droppin’ his bike in the dust and stands between me and his father’s terrible gaze.
“Leave her alone!” he shrieks at his pa.
“You spineless moron!” his father booms, spittin’ tobacco juice on the car window.
Beanie stands his ground. “I aint no moron!”
Beanie’s new backbone makes his pa furious. The man throws a fit, poundin’ on the window with his handcuffs. The sheriff scuffles with him and ties him up good and tight then drives off leavin’ Beanie to sink to his knees.
I move to stand over him as he cries.
“He followed you everywhere,” Beanie tells me in a shredded voice. “He watched from that shed while you was layin’ in the sun.” Beanie’s quiet crying turns to sobs. “I was so scared for you.”
“Lord in heaven,” Mama gasps, crossin’ herself like she was a churchgoer.
For the first time ever, I lay hands on Beanie Cramer. I pull him up to his feet and lead him to the porch swing. He puts his head on my lap. Weary has gnawed at his features. Up close, it’s bruises not dirt that darken his face, ribs showin’ through his worn out T-shirt. I hum an off-tune lullaby and pick hay from his greasy hair while I crack glue from my stuck opinions.
Silos that dot the land pull up on my gaze and I and try not to think how close I’ve come to carnage.
         By the back door, this morning’s blue cornflowers stand guard in their jar.

SHORT FICTION - Second Place
Laura Ruth Loomis
             I huddle against the fence, shielding the match with my hand, trying to protect it long enough to light the candle.  A pitiless wind snaps it out.  This morning’s rain had subsided into drizzle, but now it’s starting back up.
            The candle is in a glass jar decorated with a picture of Saint Christopher, the protector of travelers.  I bought it in a Catholic bookstore this morning, along with a medallion.  I try another match, which flares for a moment and then goes out.  Maybe the saint knows I’m Jewish.  “It’s for a friend,” I say out loud.  Though I only met her a few times.
            There’s a picture I keep in my travel bag, printed off a chat website for flight attendants.  She’s smiling, looking pert in her uniform, with a silver medallion on a chain.
            The last time we flew together was Chicago to Los Angeles, and on to Honolulu.  Flight attendants have time to talk on long trips like that.  We tell our life stories, kvetch about the passengers, and dish boyfriends.  Jumpseat therapy, we call it.
            “They tried to give me room 800 at the hotel last night,” she told me.  “I made them change it.”
            Flight attendants practice certain superstitions.  You don’t take a room number associated with a doomed flight.  800 is one that we all avoid.  These days, so is 93.  And 911.
            “I don’t know,” I said.  “Maybe I’d have kept it.  I think seeing a ghost would be cool.”
            “The ghosts of two hundred passengers, all of them pissed off about being dead?  No thank you,” she answered.  “They’re enough trouble while they’re alive.”
            Two call lights went off at once, and our break time was over.
            We hit a storm over the Pacific.  The dozing passengers were jerked awake, and the captain’s voice crackled over the loudspeaker.  “We’ve hit a little turbulence.  We’ll be fine, but everyone needs to return to their seats with seat belts fastened, including the flight attendants.”
            Which was good and bad.  Good because I didn’t have to reassure the passengers.  Bad, because there was just a chance that we weren’t fine.
            She was sitting next to me, and I watched her hand travel to the medallion.  Her lips moved in a silent prayer.
            I’ve long since forgotten the prayers I learned during my family’s annual trips to the temple for the High Holy Days.  I think there’s probably a God; the universe as a giant accident just seems too improbable.  But I don’t really get the point of prayer.  God already knows we’re hurtling through the sky in a hollowed-out chunk of metal at hundreds of miles an hour.  It’s not like he’s going to say, “Whoops, forgot I’d left that storm lying around!”
Jews have been praying for five thousand years, at sword point and in cattle cars and while being burned at the stake. It doesn’t do us much good.  I’m sure the people on Flight 800 prayed too.  Maybe someone’s out there, but he sure doesn’t seem to be listening.
            Eventually, even being scared can get boring. I asked, “What’s that medallion?”
            “Saint Christopher.  I think there’s another saint just for flight attendants  –  God knows we deserve one  –  but you can’t go wrong with Saint Chris.  He protects all travelers.”
            “See, Jews don’t need saints for that,” I told her.  “We’ve perfected traveling over the last five thousand years.  We always keep a bag packed.”
            “Wait, does that mean flight attendants are the Lost Tribe of Israel?” 
            “Could be.  But instead of God, flight attendants get the captain, who only thinks he’s God.”
            That was March.  September of that year collapsed into a single day for me, when I stood frantically ad libbing to the passengers as to why we were landing in Sacramento instead of proceeding to our destination.  “There’s a problem at the Seattle airport, they don’t know how long it’s going to take to fix, so as a precaution we’ll be landing for now.  For safety reasons, everyone please stay in your seats with seat belts fastened, and all cell phones off.”
            I could see them searching my face, trying to divine if something was wrong with the plane.  I drew on every poker game I’d ever played, trying to keep my face casual, hoping no one called my bluff.
            I prayed that day.  Please, let no one get up out of their seat.  Please, don’t make me have to guess if it’s a terrorist or just someone desperate to use the restroom.   Please, let no one sneak a phone call and find out what happened on those other flights.  Please, just get us on the ground.  Please.
            Maybe God gets tired of hearing Please.
            I avoided coming here for a long time.  But I’m on an unexpected layover in Pittsburgh, and the rest of the crew will probably come here tomorrow, when the rain’s supposed to stop. Right now it’s starting to pour again, pelting my face and the makeshift memorial.
            They say there will be a monument built here.  Right now it’s just a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, population 260.  Shank:  a crude knife, not unlike a box cutter.  This was her plane, the last one to go down.
            The crash site itself is fenced off.  Nearby there’s a plaque shaped like an angel, and forty smaller angels, each on a stake like a hollyhock vine.  They’re all red, white, and blue, inscribed with the names of the forty passengers and crew members on Flight 93.
            The rain has kept most people away today.  The chain link fence is stuffed with flowers, ribbons, teddy bears, and notes.  And flags, I didn’t know there were so many flags in the whole country.  There are a lot of foreign flags too, visitors paying their respects from Mexico, Israel, France, Australia, Iran.  Some of the rain-soaked notes are in other languages, but I don’t need a translator to know what they say:  You are not forgotten....God keep you....Peace on earth.  Even the stones are inscribed with crosses and Bible verses.
            I’m sitting here in the rain, a semi-agnostic Jew with a Catholic amulet in each hand, wanting desperately to believe that someone hears us when we pray, even if he doesn’t listen, even if he lets evil happen anyway.  Because that’s still less awful than the thought that we’re alone in the universe, and that brief moment of life was all she got.  I want to drag God down here, push his face into the fence and demand an explanation. 
            A rock leaning against the fence reads “Pray for peace,” as if that was an answer, but I can’t possibly pray as hard as she must have in those final minutes.  God, if faith was supposed to be tested, somebody failed the test.  Somebody, you or me.
            I find the angel with her name, and wrap the medallion chain around it.  I want to light the candle, but the matches are soaked by now.  
“Please,” I say.
I leave it there unlit, helpless against the elements, hoping she knows that I’d light her way home if I could.

Colleen Murphy
I spend most of my time in these halls. I mop the dirt and the piss off the floors and scrub greasy handprints from the walls. I think Catherine has me clean so people who come here looking for a place to put their used-up parents will be blinded by the pretty shine. Then they won’t see that they’re just burying their folks alive.
 I’ve worked here for twelve years, and it suits me. I hope the hard work keeps me strong so I’ll never need to live in a place like this myself. But I never knew anybody who managed to fool life into looking the other way while he escaped his lot. That is, except for Sam.
Sam’s son Tony brought him here last spring. Catherine – the boss lady - was wearing that big grin she uses when she sees money coming. She took Sam’s nice red suitcase and fussed over them in the lobby while I relocked the door. For someone always so bent on convincing people that everyone loves it here, she spends a lot of time making sure no one can just decide to up and go. I hear once a woman made it down the block to the diner, but they sent her right back. That was before Catherine took the place over and locked it down tighter than a fist holding cash.
Sam smiled big while Catherine was checking him in. He kept patting Tony on the shoulder, saying “My boy Tony!” But Tony looked like he felt every one of those pats like he was being whipped for kicking the dog.
The first few weeks, Tony came almost every day. I’d pass by Sam’s door and hear Sam asking to go back to his home in St. Louis. Tony would just try and distract him with reruns of Johnny Carson on the video player he brought.
 One day I was rolling my cart by the line of people waiting for their little cups of pills, and I about ran into Sam. He was stopped in the middle of the hall, staring at the wall.
When a nurse came and pulled him back to the line, I rolled by and saw what he had been looking at so hard. Someone had written the word “somebody” on the wall with a black marker. It started about two inches big and then trailed off at the end, like whoever wrote it ran out of steam. It’d been up there about four months. It was about eye level to a tall man, and Catherine is way short. That’s why she hadn’t yelled at me to clean it off yet. I don’t know who wrote it, but then that would make it less interesting. If I knew, then I could guess what they were trying to say. Like, “somebody stole my sandwich.” Or more likely, “somebody help me.”
After a while, Sam got more caught in the tangles in his brain, like people here do.  He started talking about a different home, on an island. He said he wanted to go fishing, and eat beef stew with his friends. Then he’d ask about people that you just knew hadn’t been around for ages, like his mom.
Tony started coming around less. It happens. The guilt and sadness is harder for the ones on the outside. In here, the dementia might be awful but those clouds in the head can be pretty soft, too. The day Sam asked about his little boy Tony was the last time Tony came.
Sam told me about the island once. I like talking about fishing, and Sam just liked to talk. He said that his ancestors were royalty in Hawaii, and that he was a real somebody there. He said home was a place called Kukuihale, and he had me say it back until I got it right. Sam said it had the bluest water and the greenest valleys, and told me stories about how it all got that way.  Stories with gods and volcanoes, like I never heard before. I swear when he talked about his home it was like we were both being lifted right out of this place, and I could smell the beef stew.
Eventually, Sam got depressed. He stopped talking and started walking in circles, dozens of them every day. He’d go down the hallway and past the men who sit in the TV room with their jaws all slack. Then he’d go out into the yard and up past “wheelchair alley,” where the five residents in wheelchairs are lined up each day in the shade. Then he’d circle into the lobby and back down the hallway to start over again.
When Catherine was in, she’d get tired of Sam walking by the desk and she’d have one of us orderlies lock him in his room. She said it was for his safety. He never made a sound. He’d be in there for hours, sometimes through dinner. Then one of the nicer nurses would think to bring him something to eat and take him into the men’s room to clean him up. Eventually, Catherine started making him wear diapers. At that point I started averting my eyes when I passed him, out of respect.  
Then one morning in August, Sam was gone.
It was like he just disappeared into thin air, through a locked door and all. A nurse went to get him for breakfast, opened the door and found a neatly made bed but no Sam.
While everyone was up front dealing with police, I looked into Sam’s closet. No red suitcase. I sat down and thought on that a spell. Then I got up and went down the hall to that spot across from the pill line. I guess you could say I had a feeling.
I looked and there it was, the word “somebody”, just like always. But now there was another word after it: “again”. Somebody again.
They haven’t found him yet. I heard Tony sued Catherine but then dropped it because insurance paid plenty. To this day I wonder what happened to Sam. Logic tells me that he didn’t have any money and wasn’t right in the head. Logic tells me that he’s either on the streets or dead.
 But sometimes I let logic go. I imagine Sam managed to escape his lot in life. I imagine him packing that bag with just a change of clothing, and maybe some muffins or crackers he had saved. I imagine him waiting each night, checking his door until finally some tired orderly forgot to lock it. I imagine him taking off that damned diaper and waiting until the night nurse went in back to watch TV. I imagine him taking the keys from the desk and unlocking the door. And then I imagine him finding his way to the blue ocean waters and green valleys of Kukuihale, where his friends were waiting for him with that good beef stew. And I imagine that the next morning, Sam went fishing.
As I said, I’m a simple man.
Brenda Bellinger
In the Blink of an Eye
I can see you looking at me. If you watch carefully, my left eye may blink. I’m sure they’ve told you it’s the only way I can communicate – two blinks for yes, one blink for no. I know you’re here to assess my condition, to see if your staff will be able to manage my care at your nursing home. I was told you’ve had other ALS patients and that I would be comfortable there. Comfortable. That’s an interesting word. What is comfort to someone who can no longer sit, stand, or lie down on their own? Someone who is fed identical meals of formula through a stomach tube because she can no longer swallow? Comfort implies a sense of well-being. No bed sores, for example.
You look like you spent some time putting yourself together this morning, right down to your carefully applied lip liner. No one had to wash or comb your hair and sponge your backside to make you presentable. I don’t remember the last time my hands were washed, or held. I can’t move them or see them now. This all started with my right hand. I kept dropping things and couldn’t seem to open a jar. I was only 60. That was five years ago. Now I’m a prisoner in this hospital bed in my own home, my mind the only part of me that is still relatively intact. Thank god I never had children. I would hate for them to see me like this.
You’re making notes. Every once in a while you flash a condescending smile in my field of vision. I don’t appreciate that. Clearly, you’re a business woman. I used to be one too. You look at me and see an opportunity for revenue. Are you calculating my life expectancy? It is less than you think.
“Mary, can you hear me?”
Two blinks.

“I have a bed waiting for you at Riverside. The room is lovely. It has just been repainted in fresh peach.”
I’m waiting.
“We can arrange for you to move in tomorrow.”
One blink.
“Would you prefer to wait a few more days?”
One blink.
“Don’t you want to move to our facility? We have excellent 24 hour care.”
One blink.
“I’ll speak to your doctor. He sent a referral because he felt this was best for you.”
I don’t know what time it is but it’s dark when Dr. Howard arrives and my niece lets him in. He pulls up a chair and takes my hand. His is warm.
“Mary, we’ve talked about your prognosis and the level of care you require. It won’t be long before you will need a ventilator.”
One blink.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Two blinks.
“I can imagine it must be very difficult for you to leave your home but if we are going to do our best to keep you alive for as long as we can…”
I blink once.

FLASH FICTION - Second Place
Ann Neumann
The Moment of Reckoning
The child on the doctor’s table lay motionless, her eyes wide, her breaths shallow, not unlike her father now, eighty years later, lying in a hospital bed, seeing again that dimly lit room.
The child is almost sixty now, with children of her own. She sits beside her father, watches the illness take him. He’s been unable to speak for weeks, death’s first triumph.
 He remembers.
“How many stitches, doctor?” the child’s mother asked, shrinking back. They’d both been afraid of her father, for good reason.
The doctor bent over her. “How did she get the gash?”
When her father struck her, he didn’t know she would skid across the floor into the heating vent. He silenced his wife’s eyes, avoided the doctor’s.
“She tripped,” he said.
He’d also struck her earlier in the week. He’d told her to walk inside the crosswalk. Instead, she’d walked on the white line, one slow step after another, never straying outside the painted stripe. She didn’t listen, that’s what, he’d told himself. Well, this will make her listen.
He’d struck her the day before the accident too for screwing her face up the moment he took the photo. “Open your eyes and close your mouth!” he’d yelled at her. She’d opened her mouth and closed her eyes. She didn’t listen, that’s what.
His wife had finally left him, as she should have. And his other children kept a safe distance. But she, she sits beside him. Her hair falls in gray strands over her forehead, over the scar.
The child had come too close to the new baby, had tried to run up to peer inside the cradle. He’d meant only to push her back. Maybe. Four-year-olds shouldn’t be so slight. She’d lain quietly in the back seat as they’d driven through the night to the clinic. He felt bad. Of course he did. He felt bad every time before and every time after.
Is this what grown men did as they lay dying, he thinks, inhabit buried memories?
Somewhere along the way, this daughter had found religion. Maybe from him. He’d been a preacher, after all. She’d returned, asked him to walk her down the aisle, sent him birthday cards from the grandchildren. He’d been a good grandpa, maybe now even a good dad. The scar always reminded him, though, even when the hair covered it.
A nurse comes in, checks his tubes. She is young, pretty. But he sees only his daughter. He needs to ask her.
“What, Dad?” She leans close to him, her hair falling to the side.
He thinks the question that his lips can’t speak. He breathes it on his shallow breaths. How many stitches?
“Oh, Dad,” she says. “Don’t you know?”
He does know. But he needs her to tell him one more time.
Seven? he breathes.
“No, Dad,” she says softly. “Not seven. Seventy times seven.”
He closes his eyes. How sweet, he thinks, that the final word is a number.

Gordon McPherson
A perfectionist, he merely wanted to complete his thesis, examining the hidden influence of Revelation on Mick Jagger’s music. He had maintained his academic seclusion in order to cleanse his work of any errors despite the increasing turmoils of the world outside. Nevertheless, he recalled his growing unease over recent coincidences that should have no place in a well ordered universe where the laws cause and effect prevailed.

On the first occasion, he remembered his scholarly pleasure when, after hours of internal debate, he corrected an ambiguous usage, changing tincture to colour. That very day, a race riot in the city slums reverberated onto the international stage. He felt mildly sympathetic that the word colour had caused anguish for others as well and then dismissed this as mere coincidence.

A week or so later, after careful consideration of all the literary implications, he decided that the word revolution was somewhat pretentious, and replaced it with the more modest uprising. Within the hour, the media was ablaze with downloads from The Brotherhood, proclaiming an uprising against the Chinese backed government in Canada. This gave him pause. Did that single act of replacement actually result in those guerilla successes? Was it more than coincidence? And a few days later, with the sudden collapse of the global economy, wasn’t its pitiful state a better explanation for that catastrophe than his correction of an error of style, where he substituted the word crash for the more idiomatic thump?

It had to be some kind of fluke. It couldn’t be his fault. And he was going to take it upon himself to prove it! Scouring his Word document, he reluctantly replaced the word retort with the less confrontational exchange. The word itself was full of benignity, suggesting a gracious give and take between equals. If it had any effect, it would surely be to rectify the prevailing economic chaos. What would Fate do with that? He turned on the television and waited.

For a while, nothing happened beyond the usual outrages of muggings, break-ins and corporate corruption, but, after an hour or so, this relatively quiet rash of criminality was trumped by some dreadful news. Mainstream Southern Baptists, quoting their bible, had nuked Salt Lake City. Mainstream Mormons, quoting back, had likewise annihilated Houston. The Air Force intervened, punishing both insurgencies. The TV was alive with that ominous phrase, nuclear exchange. He was horrified. It was no fluke. His PhD was a dark conduit to something beyond the rational. Dare he even touch his work now?

But then he noticed the error. Regardless of Megadeaths, Ground Zeros and Hiroshimas, he could only stare instead at his computer screen and at that mistaken heading - Apocalips. Despite the aptness of the pun, he had to rectify that final blemish! Trembling, he typed in the correction. He would have the final word.

POETRY - First Place
Russell Read
At Old Faithful Down the Line
He marks the steel pipe with a grease pencil,
slams it into the pipe machine and spins the lock closed
with the joy of being where he is meant to be.
Joyous because his wife swells with his electricity.
a spark which decades from now will leap
across a shallow bay to fire a grandchild’s heart

Good work is how the dying should hand down their lives
not the way of his ancestors who continue giving him things.
He sees his father in eyes of the Utah coal miners,
hears his grandfather’s voice in Baptist preachers.
They poke bony fingers out of the mud
with stuff he doesn’t want:  cracked buttons,
worn dice, a shoe fetish, a taste for Jack Daniels.
Whatever is broken or shamed, whatever the dead can’t love,
whatever they can’t cut into curtains or linoleum,
the blizzard of trash and treasure fills every corner of his life.

Nobody will know if he fails to cut this pipe perfectly. 
He could skip the task of awling out the slivers,
but as heir to so much debris, he is careful.
He doesn’t want to cut corners.
A perfect cut may keep a bit of trash from a future life,
and ignite his spark somewhere down the line.

Snow like powder sugar dissolves into rain
origin determined by ends, ends determined by beginnings
a carousal of rising and fallings like elephants in their gold banners
parading around the center ring of the Big Top trunks to tails, shuffling through sawdust
circling the center, the motionless hub of all that rises and falls through time.

Winter streams down my neck as I wait on the platform,
fingers stiff with age, fancies like church bells echoing in my ears:
spam, passwords, the sickening weight of junk,
distracted by distractions from distractions,
entranced by flying worries:
When will the geyser blow? Why do I sleep alone?  Does my life belong to me?
The parade of elephants under the Big Top
heavy toes muffled in sawdust each dusty bloom a valuation of my life.

POETRY - Second Place
Nicole Dorfman
The Night Bus

The Turkish men speak in loud, distressed tones
rearranging seats.
Not one will sit beside me, a woman, alone.

A small boy is shuffled up the aisle
and slips past me to the window.
Leaving Istanbul on the night bus east.


I think of the long thread of war
woven through the generations
along the Silk Road passages
a tapestry of scars and salve. 


The boy soon nods
against the cold black glass.
I listen to his even breath
above the constant grind of engine.

His grey-bearded grandfather with shining grey-green eyes
has been watching me, curious, concerned.
He points out the muted edges of a lake
and speaks a name I try, but cannot repeat.

A crescent moon slides among ripples of black
yet finds little else to reflect in.


I wonder how often this man has seen
reflected in dark water, the moon,
how often war has snared him,
how many times he’s prayed for peace

and how he has come to transcend it all 
with this beautiful open face.

He asks if the women shawled
in sleep across the aisle
are my sisters. “Kiz Kardesh?”

And something is quieted
inside of me
I understand and answer “yes”. 

POETRY - Third Place
Laura Apol
(Withheld per Author Request)

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