First Place in our 10 year anniversary contest goes to…

Stephanie Hempel

and here is her poem:


You Used Your Hands-

I never passed the knot tying workshop
in Girl Scouts. More than anything I wanted
to add that laminated badge on my Brownie vest.

I never learned the chemistry of rope cord,
A real life-skill, the intermingling of knots
to save stranded tug boats or falling trees,
but you did.

They said you had the most callused knuckles
in all of Brown County,
and that’s exactly how I recognized them,
blessed to the bone from hard work,
patient with time.

Youth isn’t a word
that is always taken into consideration,
especially in the parts of the town
that nobody talks about.

It was something that nobody ever talked about,
just admired the way that your fingers glided
with ease over the body of a grain loader,
mighty driver of the plains, they said,
praising all those barrel palms could carry home.

You used to pick me up after Girl Scout meetings,
lifting me up into the cab seat to fasten me in,
your hands never failing to provide comfort
after a day of failed knots,
the space on my vest appearing a little less empty.

I admired you in a way I did not even understand
at an age where everything was still blooming
like poppy seeds,

On the afternoon I asked you if you knew how to tie bows,
you cut the ribbons out of my hair,
and tore apart the buttons on my jeans,

I don’t remember anything except
the way I shivered in the blankets
when you were through.
Going home to my mother
with not enough words in my
premature mouth to explain why
I flinched when she spoke

My stomach rung dry with dust,
and legs caked in your soil
that burned holes into my skin,
you dismantled a perfectly capable garden

You used your hands
to introduce me to a lifetime of anxiety attacks
with no previous explanation,
a long account given to lovers
about why my legs weren’t
capable of parting red-seas,
to douse their broken bread,
a wavering memory that still
shames my feminine hips,

They told me you had the most callused knuckles
in all of Brown County,
I never told them why.

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10th Anniversary Contest – Second Place

Second place in our contest went to Reena Prasad.
Here is her poem:

Dirt

Dirt from another time
is lodged under my fingernails
In the freshly turned soil,
is a flat boulder bordered by wild flowers
A garden is also a grave

The sun pours out lethargy
The afternoon crosses through several skins
scorching, fading, eliminating them
Their contents lie
as cool mud in my palms
‘chariots’ of several thoughts flown
and I am one among them
teeth, bones, hair
All hand-me-downs from unknown ash

A hollow in the banyan’s trunk
holds glass marbles, sea shells, a feather, a ring
It is a secret chest of survival
watched over by tree spirits
A child’s stash is sacred

The mud fed on marrow, red, black and fertile
is human mulch
Seeds dig deep and bring up
the sleeping, undisturbed
in their buds
Within me, fallen leaves shift gently
My skin is a bark, forgotten
and the breeze is older
than my oldest memory

Underneath
many worlds rest till they are called upon
to stand in for a forest
to hold back a river in spate
or replenish a barren womb
The warm earth in my fist
could be anyone from history

I blow it off my palms and a staleness
leaves me
For too long
this breath of mine has been
moving in and out of bodies

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10 Year Anniversary Contest – Third Place

Third place in our contest goes to James Blevins.

Here is his poem:

Wish, Coin, Word—for Girl as Old Echo

Ache, the ache of routine took as torn,
and bristling to be observed.
I whistle at my good good-fortune.

Below, beneath a moon’s swollen elbow,
canted just so, to frame the floor; a remedy
I air with poem, from lips humid with poetry,
or trying hard to be.

A well as deep.

I toss it as far up as my words can carry,
but it rarely clears the hole. So, with dirty
finger, I repeat my echoes from long, long ago,
from a well bare; save me and the froth
I collect for breath, and eyes that observe
such cave-ins in-progress.

The dirt of an evening.

Much harder than you know. Really.
When stopped to ponder from the distance of
many, many years, it really forms a position. It really
gets sassy, literarily speaking: It bleeds.
It, despite the grime of old poems,
the jaunty retrospect,
still bleeds fresh up to navels.

Below, beneath the bottomless well of my skin, I remember her echo.

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The Cold Hard Facts

I will be announcing the winners of our 10 year anniversary contest in the next week or two, but today I wanted to say something in response to the recent election.

Let’s look at the cold hard numbers.

2008 Obama 69,498,516
McCain 59,948,323

2012 Obama 65,915,795
Romney 60,933,504

2016 Clinton 59,938,290
Trump 59,704,886 (at the time of this writing – Clinton will end up close to a million ahead when all votes are counted)

As you can see for the last 3 elections the republican gets 60 million votes. More voted for Romney than Trump. There was no movement – no uprising. Sure, some of the old white voters who died since 2008 were replaced with disaffected blue collar workers. But the end result was still 60 million. The problem is that we are missing between 5 and 10 million votes. They simply did not come out. Those extra 5 to 10 million would have produced the same maps as Obama enjoyed. Why didn’t they come out? I really don’t care. The damage is done.

20 million will lose health insurance

Medicaid is gone

Medicare is gone – to be replaced by a woefully insufficient private voucher system.

Social Security is gone. Now I will say there is a glimmer of hope for Social Security. They obviously can’t take it from existing seniors or they would be swept out of office in 2018. I think what they will do is say that those 55 and older will still get Social Security. This will appease enough people that it won’t cause harm to re-elections. My only hope is that they allow 45-55 year olds to opt in as I just hit 45. Otherwise I will die in the street as a senior when I can no longer work. I’m not sure many people realize how few people can survive long in their old age without Social Security and Medicare (or a pension – which almost no one gets anymore). I would say less than 1% of the population. You’d need a good million dollars in the bank to generate sufficient income to pay for top health insurance and living expenses with the severely depressed interest rates we have. A million dollars would give you about 50,000 a year after taxes if invested conservatively. How many people have a million dollars cash? Yeah way less than 1%.

Marriage Equality is gone if Ginsburg dies.

A woman’s right to choose is gone. The rich will simply fly to Canada for their abortions. The poor will bleed and die in back alleys and then face prosecution and jail if they survive and are caught.

But in a way, worse than all this, is that there will now be unchecked violence, discrimination and harassment rampant in huge areas of the country, where it is no longer safe to be. Basically if the local town or county has not enacted local or state laws to protect you, you will not be safe there if you are a minority or gay. You will be bullied, ridiculed, harassed, and sometimes physically attacked or murdered. This has begun even during the campaign and it will increase a thousandfold. I lived in Alabama for many years and know what exists there. We are back to the days of saying “she’s my sister” to explain why you are living with another woman.

Worst of all, you will have a far right supreme court for the rest of your life if you are over 40. Let that sink in for a minute.

People point to hope for midterm elections in 2 years. Get real. The 2018 elections will make things worse. There may be hope for 2020, but that depends on how bad things have gotten by that point. I would not place too much faith in 2020 right now.

And lets get real about something else. Due to only republicans coming out during midterm elections they control the vast majority of state legislatures and have rigged the system with their gerrymandering. It takes a 10% democratic win to flip the house of representatives. This is what we saw with Obama in 2008 with his 10 million vote victory. His 5 million in 2012 was not good enough. LET THAT SINK IN. Having to get a 10% win or more to win is not democracy. We no longer live in a democracy. And I’m not talking about being a republic and the electoral college and all that. I’m talking about a plutocracy of the right.

Worse than this. Worse than this by far is that only half of all eligible voters voted. Bart Simpson or ‘this school sucks’ would have beaten either candidate. We are being ruled by 25% of the people.

I’ve mentioned hope several times, however I don’t really see any. I think the best we can hope for now is that Trump the president is more like the 1990’s party boy Trump. I think we saw a glimpse of that man in his initial reaction to the North Carolina bathroom law. Basically – why are they wasting their time with that nonsense. But then someone whispered the correct party answer in his ear and he later said that this law was good and necessary. I think losing the popular vote will eat at Trump. He should be reminded of it weekly. I think this will make him want to win the ratings/approval of the majority. He wants to be loved and adored. This means that he wants to be popular. Sure, he will crush some enemies, but to feel the love of his subjects he may seek to be benevolent. And in 4 or 8 years (if the job takes it’s toll on him as it has everyone else) he may be happy to continue to allow free elections and retire.

Do you see where we are? The best we can hope for is a benevolent dictator.

Protest is futile and will be crushed mercilessly. Even Occupy, under a liberal president and in liberal cities, was put down eventually when the authorities tired of their presence. Come next year that will occur on the first day and with live ammunition. Satire and parody and little skits and witty remarks on TV shows are futile. Articles like this are futile.

What to do? The only thing that matters is getting 65-70 million people to vote. And I think the only way to do that anymore is with a beloved celebrity like Tom Hanks. Obama had that celebrity magic in 2008. But just look how only 4 years later he lost 5 million votes. Already people were no longer excited enough to waste their so valuable time to come out for him. That is what our culture now values – trending celebrity. That is what has to be used to win in 2020, otherwise it will be a crushing defeat. In the meantime I would suggest lying low, staying in cities with local hate crime and anti-discrimination laws, or leaving the country if you can. Unfortunately most can not. It is not that easy to do for an american.

The damage has been done. No factory jobs will be returning. They want us to drop dead working our minimum wage job at 70 with no healthcare, pension, or security. And that is set to occur. I do not see any hope to stop it. And I wish I was 65 now instead of 45. I would gladly give up those 20 years of my life. That is where we are.

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Stephen Mead

Try Again

Brown, the color of nostalgia, the first snaps:
Autumn, autumn, beige bleeding to sepia,
A good dark cedar bringing up light——

Those were the shades, that was my memory
Awash on mud liquid, some creek’s glinting
Voyage where childhood floats & sediments

Well…
Leaf bits, branch diviners, the calling of a face
Lucid with what it lived, dreaming a gaze
Containing that distance, open intimately…

No. The brushes went overboard. The fingers
Failed to translate, raise the breathing portrait
Which is less paint & more spirit.

So I am scrubbing myself down now
‘til the flesh canvas is mist & that mist begins
to lift everything that my small story has been

searching

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Willow DeLyon


The Susurrus

Grace was perfume
Was malleable mists
A gale of stork legs
And swan necks
White silks adrift on cherry breath
An actress
So gold
She fooled herself

As she danced
Mirror girl watched her own dark wrists
Her own burnt feet
Kick up heat
In lazy eddies
Spun womanhood from shadow
In a studio built for building
New bodies
New ambitions
Graceling busting beauties
With ice for blood

Your turn, the whisper
And a shove ‘tween the shoulders
Towards the vast center
Spangled with sweat

All eyes, hardboiled
Turned to me
Earthling in gauze
Cherry breeze
Stoked my sun-roasted cheeks
The twin hulls of hot tomatoes

I met grace half way
Took her chill freckled hands
And flung us both
Out
Beyond the mock stage

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10th Anniversary Contest – cash prizes!

It has come to my attention (and surprise) that Abramelin is 10 years old this summer. Were we ever so young? Well, we have to celebrate somehow, right? I thought of doing a best of the decade issue, but decided to give something back to the poetry community and do a contest instead. So… we will award a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prize of $20, 10, and 5 respectively. The three winning poems will also be published in Abramelin.

To enter our 10 year anniversary celebration contest you must submit one poem to nessaralindaran@aol.com between September 1st and October 31st. The heading of your email must tell me that it is a ‘contest entry.’

I won’t impose a mandatory theme, however I feel that ideas of transcendence, as well as overcoming obstacles and the mundane would be appropriate for the occasion. It is absolutely Free to enter the contest. You must have a paypal address to receive your prize if you win. I can not stress this enough. Best of luck to everyone and long live Abramelin!

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Gus Palmer Jr.

Incident at Cornfields

He caught the conch shell
blazing in the sun and with
his two-year old daughter he
gathered about the whitetail
deer and carried it streaming
from his shoulders and boned
through the brush. He dreamed
of peyote, not knowing which way
the putrid stone would throw him
in his gut. About him lay dry
sticks. He suspected where shells
came from and the oval-shaped beads.
They were not all stolen from the
place he thought. Rather, he caught
one of them canterng by the sea just
like the whitetail deer. He stretched
its blood over the stone to drape its
wound facedown in the sun, but the rain
fell and drained its image. He touched
the volcanic stone at the entrance of
his house but that too fell into a million
images. He dreamed of a fox in winter
blue when it issues from the rock each
black down of it. At noon, with its string of
coral beads it pads about his neck.
It breathes heavily of the air.
People look each day for its head to
become a watermelon they can
eat but he has them fooled as yet.
The corn separates itself into heads
when the white blossoms call
forth to the north god.

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Janet I. Buck

Soliloquies I Did Not Plan

Watch that Blue Jay on the fence,
tall green grass that’s grown a foot in just two weeks.
A curly, plush geranium the color of a pomegranate
getting ripe inside a bowl—I place them both
where suns rise near an eastern window,
letting light in fast enough to feed my hunger to survive.
I roll an orange in my hand, pretend an angel
or a ghost dropped that coin right on my bed,
to cheer me through the shadow days, bounce it
like a tennis ball—it feels rough and knows the ground—
it’s just the size of all my brittle memories.

Life is never what it was, but I can’t seem
to love the garden growing here.
Arthritis going after bones—shapes of all the dwindled disks
that run my back, cartilage I wore out like old underwear
each time I struggled with a step. It’s catching up,
seems too close to punishments I didn’t see ahead of me—
a six-car wreck from traffic jams, more than just ten bumpers lost.
My spine is now the corkscrew minus bottled wine.
No one knows how dark it is in cellars that I’m sitting in.
And I won’t spell this shade of black.

The moan, the groan, the pinching wince—
this evidence of bodies sulking in disease
that stirs my lover in his sleep—shrapnel from soliloquies
I never meant to read or write, let alone
admit out loud like barking dogs.
On telephones, I scale down the doctor’s news
to whispers of an issue here, an issue there, summarize
so much that truth becomes a misty fingerprint.
Then I stew and wonder why—no one worries how I am,
feeling obsolete and lost, planets in another orbit,
hapless and so discontent. I’m the ugly rubber troll
I played with as a little girl, never could quite fix its hair
or dress up legs that didn’t move, no matter
how much felt I cut, hours spent in sewing rooms.
I always tell them, “I am fine”—
to keep their eyes from seeing black banana peels,
bedsores brewing on a knotted shoulder joint—
their noses clear of musty piles of folded clothes
untouched or moved in dresser drawers.

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linda m. crate


no moon, no moon

i loved you once
when there were a thousand stars
holding their breath
in a sky of cerulean blue so dark it
was almost as black
as your coffee,
everything seemed to shine brighter
than sun star (a phrase you said
i used too much in my
poetry);
but now you’re gone
i have retreated back into my words
so easy to shed the skin
of my womanhood
and fall into the depths of my introspection
so deep and dark and beautiful
mysterious as our love
and its ending—
we can’t choose what goes and what stays
just experience it as it comes and goes,
and despite the pain and the
terror you put my
poor little red heart through;
i would endure it a thousand times because
as tragic as it was
it was a shakespearean winter and you
know how much i love his
plays.

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