Winner: Alexis Rhone Fancher

Cruel Choices

 

When my husband’s two grown daughters are in town, the three of them go to the movies, or play pool. Share dinner every night. Stay out late. I haven’t seen my stepdaughters since my son’s funeral in 2007. When people ask, I say nice things about the girls, as if we had a relationship. When people ask if I have children I change the subject. Or I lie, and say no. Or sometimes I put them on the spot and tell them yes, but he died. They look aghast and want to know what happened. Then I have to tell them about the cancer. Sometimes, when the older daughter, his favorite, is in town, and she and my husband are out together night after night, I wonder what it would be like if that was me, and my boy, if life was fair, and, rather than my husband having two children and I, none, we each had one living child. His choice which one to keep. Lately when people ask, I want to lie and say yes, my son is a basketball coach; he married a beautiful Iranian model with kind eyes, and they live in London with their twin girls who visit every summer; the same twins his girlfriend aborted with my blessing when my son was eighteen, deemed too young for fatherhood, and everyone said there would be all the time in the world.

(Published in Amarylis, UK, 2018)

Please find her interview here:

Runner-up: Bola Opaleke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon the Blue Nile

 

I want to be         the virgin flower

that opens her         lips to countless kisses

of rain         opens her thighs to unforceful

sunlight         gently caressing her breasts

ignoring nature’s wide hips to swallow her up at dawn

 

I want          to be what no one else has been

a spiderweb          for unbaptized gods

 

pure & unbroken         deathless like a crabapple tree

my ears filled with buckets         of rejected euphemisms

my tongue that could         no longer taste my name

& my mouth         that could no longer drink curses

spitting locusts at all tangled voices dissolving inside it

 

to squash the gods with my fingers         before they wash

contretemps off my heart         the way we wash permissions

off menstruation blood         I want to be the secret prayer

of a Sudanese girl upon the blue Nile       bells jiggling beneath her

sullen eyes         she sits quietly on the bruised laps of Darfur

& Khartoum both her hands clutched tight         to her ears

this is how she prays & this is how she pauses the sound of bombs

 

pretending to be untouched by human noises         like water

inside coconut         I keep curating every lie where I steer the wheel

 

on which I turn         leer it at the knob that refused to turn

for my body         not completely unoccupied by curiosity

by the green soul of a virgin flower        by nature’s wild hips

these unbaptized gods         eating Psyllium together with its husk

said & saying I can only be the angry prayer of a Sudanese girl in tears

Special mention:
 

I’ll Call It Blue by Jill Rachel Jacobs
Ransomed Dreams by Ann Christine Tabaka
A Lost Homesteader by Mark J. Mitchell
To a Coastline Tonight by Asha Gowan
Another Gay Love Poem by Adam Levon Brown
Recalling Sarah by Denise O’Hagan
Sometimes half is beautiful by Sravani Singampalli
An Apple for the Teacher by Abbie Johnson Taylor
Love Underground by Marc Darnell

The shorlist:

A Lost Homesteader by Mark J. Mitchell
An Apple for the Teacher by Abbie Johnson Taylor
Another Gay Love Poem by Adam Levon Brown
Breathless by Dennis Moriarty
Children of the Moon by Michael Madden
Cruel Choices by Alexis Rhone Fancher
Dinner Table by Aneek Chatterjee
Genie by Anna Geisler
I’ll Call It Blue by Jill Rachel Jacobs
Kaleidoscope heartbeat by Steven Harz
Khamsin by David Anthony Sam
Last Wish by Ann Christine Tabaka
Love Underground by Marc Darnell
Maplewood by Jennifer Maloney
Murmurs by David Sabol
No Return by Charles Rammelkamp
Of Smoke & Mirrors by Lynda McKinney Lambert
Olympus by Heath Brougher
Purple Flinch by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
Ransomed Dreams by Ann Christine Tabaka
Recalling Sarah by Denise O’Hagan
Salvation by Ariana Materai
Shredded by Beverly M. Collins
Sleepless in Las Vegas by Shpresa Ymeraj
Sometimes half is beautiful by Sravani Singampalli
That Winter by Marjon van Bruggen
The Army in the Clouds by Linda Imbler
The Sexton Is Gone But Not Quite Gone by Todd Mercer
To a Coastline Tonight by Asha Gowan
Upon the Blue Nile by Bola Opaleke

 

The Pangolin Review Team

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