Cruel Poems, Contest Winners

A month and a half ago, I was struck by the most unbelievable boredom. I had read poems for a few hours, contemporary ones, in nice journals, or on the poorly formatted websites of journals that were chic enough to wait for a writer to finish graduate school before considering their submission. These "well-wrought" poems all share a kind of flat affect, through which they express a bizarre cliche of treacle, humanism and amorality. Things were bad sometimes, the poems said, but someone is sorry about that, and we can think on it a while, they express distance more than anything. Good for distance, distances are worth mentioning, but not to exclusion. I wondered about the things that are closest, particularly those gleeful and shameful impulses that are given such full expression in all art-forms that are still alive. Cruelty came to mind, and so I called for a contest, of poets, to produce a work on the theme, as it struck them.

The poems that came in were wildly different. Some considered cruelty as an idea. A few missed my point and wondered what it would be like to think poorly of cruelty and cruel people. Two of them seemed actually anti-semitic. Several of my favorites are included in the zine, "Cruel Poems", published here and elsewhere on the internet. However, two stood out to me, and made me feel genuinely honored that they had been submitted. Both poets, Chris Schaeffer and Pauline Veatch, will be awarded a 1,000 bill, along with a personal e-card.

by Pauline Veatch

cigarette at the corner of 87th and falcon
this fictionalized account of
how you managed to make eye contact with me
like eggshells, like husks of spiders, like rosin
your dried out dead tongue dipped in ink
and the claws i've made of your teeth
and you know i have no inside anymore
i'm packing my bones with snow and i've sharpened my hips to points
a crow and a gull and now i'm using every part of myself to pick you clean
all his panes were shattered mirrors
all his panes were shadows and ink-soaked

Impartial Third Party Adjudicator on Nixon v. Socrates 
by Chris Schaeffer

Note down note down shift in temperature/humidity on
Respective coasts of Athens and Manhattan. The lightning
Whelk spooning inwards, proceeding from the left.

They both coughed and coughed until their bodies
Caved in. The plastic cups came apart. Gosh,
They were really laughing their guts out.

They were really big piles of shit in the end.
They were really human shit. The nurse
Notes this down on damp paper. Both indicate
With hand gestures a refusal to resuscitate.

From the meniscus noted down the surface tension
On the blue-white cheek, prod out cilia and cilia and

The last feeble choke and graft of language. Child
In overall-shorts smirking at both funerals at once.
Appearing over battlefield. Missing teeth. Freckled.

Oh! AND Oh! Hey! That old death grammar and
Oh hey the length of spiny appendages.

Buff molecules swole so dense with papillae
Who could say what eye or tit they would become
So hard with muscles so round rippling dots—

Oh yeah and so also the flexing gland in the heart! Nope.

Which it observed and it observed that it was into your music
And moved from building to building threshing with flails.

And it moved from building to building trying hard to grow
A wing or third finger. And it clung to the lowest level
Like limpets, male and sleek as white lung mantle

And the end of holding on to bones and skins.
Another lower whelk in deeper water. Some guy’s
Bare sheathes stir the shit up, throw the net
Out deeper where the giant kelps are patient and vain.

Pat says Oh Baby I’m really ‘lichen’ this new autosynthetic
Symbiotic haircut! Menelaus slaps her hard across the mouth,
Draws blood. Laugh/Applause. It’s a wise child
That dips his feet in the sea. It’s a beautiful girl
That dips her finger in the cold black tea.

It’s a disgraced former linebacker wading out with his organs
Unspooling green and broad, sucking light and going glad.
All around the world more and more are voting yes
For algae, building to building yes
That old wave packet sound !!

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