Friday, February 28, 2014

Poem of the Week: Franny Choi

Franny Choi




How'd you get so slice?
Razor pinch all flat-like? All puff
& sting? What's your allergy?
Hi bucktooth cartoon. Hi war
paddy. Hi refugee. Spit. Take it.
Tight lids. Dagger flick. Stick
shift. Tease. Lemon juice.
Wide screen. We all scream.
What are you mad? Seething in
the corner? Cat squeezing
fish spine from back? What are you
blind-eye? What are you cock-
roach? What are you gleaming
all teeth no iris at the sun's grin?


Act like you've

never seen a pinhole

camera. I drink every

every. Condense light

into its smallest body.

-Franny Choi   

Use by permission.
Originally published in Radius.  

Franny Choi's poetry explores the collisions of identity, the volatility of language, and the haunting relationship between the artist's body and her body of work. She has been a finalist at the National Poetry Slam, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. A Pushcart Prize Nominee, her literary work has appeared in Fringe, Apogee, Tandem, Angry Asian Man, and others. Her play Mask Dances, which told the story of the 1980 Kwangju Uprising, was staged for the 2011 Writing is Live Festival. She co-coordinates ProvSlam Youth, a program for young writers in Providence, RI. Her first collection of poetry, Floating, Brilliant, Gone, is forthcoming from Write Bloody Publishing in March 2014. 
Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Monday, February 24, 2014

We Have a Mobile App!

We are very excited to unveil Split This Rock's 2014 festival mobile app, which allows Smart Phone and tablet users to carry everything there is to know about the 2014 festival in their pocket! The free app works on both iPhones and Android phones and includes:

- Full festival schedule and panel descriptions
- Bios of our 16 Featured Poets
- Bios of all Presenters, linked to their panels
- Maps of festival neighborhood and venues
- Eatery suggestions
- Information about festival sponsors
- Split This Rock History, Mission, and Program 

With the app, you'll be able to bookmark events, take notes, and add favorite events to a personalized schedule. You can even set reminders to notify you about events!

Social media components allow you to browse Split This Rock's Twitter and Facebook feeds, as well as share your own social media updates. Let your friends know which
panels and readings have blown your mind with, literally, a few finger taps. You can even share photos!   

Browse our own photo set including photos from the past three festivals, and watch videos from the 2012 festival readings -- those are at your fingertips too.
The app includes a built-in map with markers for all main festival venues. We've also included a list of recommended neighborhood eateries and coffee shops to check out while you're in town.   

With the app we are now able to send you instant updates. If there is a last minute venue change or an unfortunate cancellation we'll send out a push notification to your phone.

With special thanks to United By Love Design for designing the visual elements. And to the folks at CrowdTorch for doing all the coding work and making it happen.  

Mobile App Screenshot

If you are reading this from your phone use the below links to download:

iPhone Users: Download here 
Android Users:
Have a QR scanner?
Simply scan the square below and it will take you directly to the store:


Search for "Split This Rock" in the app store. 
We hope you enjoy!

For more info on the Festival or for questions, visit or call 202-787-5210.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Poem of the Week: Sheila Black

"My Mission is to Surprise and Delight" 
My daughter works in the Apple Store--the Help Center, open 24-7,
people from all fifty states, angry because their iPhones
malfunctioned or they don't know how to program their data
plans. She practices sounding knowledgeable yet ditzy; mysterious
yet lucid, and able to reassure. She has never been ranked down for
a "bad conversation, " and they rate every call. Some of the kids
lose it--the ones who get fired." A bit better than minimum.wage,
but not much. "You get addicted to the notion-what would it
mean to be the perfect Apple helper every time?" They reward.her
with T-shirts. "You are the Future!" in a pretty Apple box. And
letters signed "Apple." "We know you have dreams. We know
you are the one we have been waiting for." They have taken
over the Wells Fargo Bank building downtown, a row of white
Apple cubicles made of slick plastic-beautifully designed. Steve
Jobs said "simplicity takes effort." He said "Apple is for the
person with the unique mind." After work, my daughter and her
co-workers bend over their iPhones, When I say "rosemary,"
my daughter Googles a picture of it. Her latest t-shirt bears the slogan
"My mission is to surprise and delight." This annoys her faintly.
"How can I wear it outside the Apple Help Center?" she asks. "Apple
loves you," says the latest letter. I want to say "You, Steve Jobs, did
not invent a machine alone. No you, Steve Jobs, invented a new
form of loneliness. No wonder you were not able to live forever.
The body has to get its own back somehow. How you have.separated
each from each, self from self, the anti-parable in which
all breads and loves become as one. The silver apple, which
will never be edible, will never be baked into any kind of pie."
I ask my daughter how she does it-eight hours, call after call,
and everyone angry, or sad, or simply frustrated. "I never speak
as myself," she replies, "but as Phone Girl." Phone Girl has no
past, no present, no family. Phone girl is all light and longing.
She is only a voice, and a voice can be anything." My daughter
holds out her hands, "She is a light you can see straight through."

-Sheila Black

Used by permission.

Sheila Black is the author of House of Bone, Love/Iraq (both CW Press) and Wen Kroy (Dream Horse Press) which won the Orphic Prize in Poetry. She co-edited with Jennifer Bartlett and Mike Northen Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press), named a Notable Book for Adults for 2012 by the American Library Association (ALA). She has received the Frost-Pellicer Frontera Award and was a 2012 Witter Bynner Fellow selected by Philip Levine. She lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs the literary arts center Gemini Ink.  

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Save the Monarch Migration: A Letter from Homero Aridjis & 175 Scientists, Writers & Artists


                                                   14 February 2014

President Barack Obama
President Enrique Peña Nieto
Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Honorable Gentlemen:

 Decline of the Monarch Butterfly Migration in Eastern North America.

     Among the countless organisms that have evolved during the history of life on earth, monarch butterflies are among the most extraordinary. Sadly, their unique multigenerational migration across our large continent, their spectacular overwintering aggregations on the volcanic mountains in central Mexico, and their educational value to children in Canada, the United States, and Mexico are all threatened. 

Monitoring of the butterfly population over the past two decades indicates a grim situation. Following a long-term decline, the total area occupied by the overwintering butterflies plunged from the 20-year average of 6.7 hectares to a record low of 0.67 hectares in the current season, a 90% decrease. This winter, only seven of twelve traditional sites had any butterflies at all, and only one of those (El Rosario, 0.5 hectares) was substantial in size.

     The decline has two main causes: 

1. Loss of breeding habitat. The major summer breeding area of the monarch butterfly is in the floristically rich grasslands of central North America, where the monarch’s milkweed foodplants grow in abundance. However, over the past decade the planting of corn and soybean varieties that have been genetically modified to be herbicide resistant has risen to 90%. Shortly after the corn or soy seeds germinate, the fields are sprayed with herbicides that kill all other plant life including the milkweeds, the only plants that monarch caterpillars can eat. 

Furthermore, with economic incentives for producing corn ethanol, the planting of corn in the U.S. has expanded from 78 million acres in 2006 to 97 million acres in 2013. Fallow fields, row crops and roadsides that used to support the growth of milkweeds and substantial acreage of land previously set aside in the U.S. Conservation Reserve Program have been converted to monoculture crops. 

Further loss of habitat has resulted from urban sprawl and development. More generally, the current chemical-intensive agriculture is threatening monarchs and other native pollinators and unraveling the fabric of our ecosystems.

2. Degradation of overwintering habitat. Overwintering monarchs depend on the protective cover of undisturbed oyamel fir forest canopy in Mexico. While the Mexican government has largely stopped the major illegal logging that threatened the forests used by the wintering monarch butterflies, damaging small scale illegal logging continues.

     What can be done? If the monarch butterfly migration and overwintering phenomenon is to persist in eastern North America, mitigation of breeding habitat loss must be initiated. As Mexico is addressing the logging issues, so now must the United States and Canada address the effects of our current agricultural policies. 

Managing roadsides for native plants, including milkweeds, could be a significant tool to partially offset the loss of habitat. There are 3.2 million miles of roads east of the Rocky Mountains. If 25-foot roadside strips and medians were managed to support the growth of milkweeds, then eastern U.S. roadsides could contribute more than 19 million acres of milkweed habitat. If two monarchs were produced per acre of habitat, then these roadsides could produce nearly 40 million monarchs, i.e., about one tenth of the 20 year average number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico. 

Within the agricultural heartland, a second mitigation effort should promote more extensive buffers of native plant communities at field margins. Collaborative exclusion of field margins in cooperation with farming communities could add substantially and help assure the continuation of the world's most revered butterfly. An incentive program to pay farmers to set aside toxin-free areas for milkweeds and pollinators could be a move in the right direction.

 A milkweed corridor stretching along the entire migratory route of the monarch butterfly through our three countries must be established. This will show the political will of our governments to save the living symbol of the North American Free Trade Agreement. We the undersigned hope that you will discuss the future of the monarch butterfly during the North American leaders’ Summit that will take place on February 19-20, 2014 in Toluca, state of Mexico.

Sincerely yours,

Homero Aridjis                          Dr. Lincoln P. Brower
President, Grupo de los Cien     Sweet Briar College, USA

Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan
            Co-Facilitator, Make Way for Monarchs



Dr. Alfonso Alonso, Smithsonian Institution, USA
Dr. Sonia M. Altizer, University of Georgia, USA
Dr. Michael Boppre, University of Freiburg, Germany
Dr. Lincoln P. Brower, Sweet Briar College, USA
Dr. Linda S, Fink, Sweet Briar College, USA
Dr. Barrie Frost, Queens University, Ontario, Canada
Dr. Jordi Honey-Roses, University of British Columbia, Canada
Dr. Pablo F. Jaramillo-López, UNAM, Michoacán, Mexico
Dr. Stephen B. Malcolm, Western Michigan University, USA
Dr. Karen Oberhauser, University of Minnesota, USA
Dr. Robert M. Pyle, Grays River, Washington, USA
Dr. Isabel Ramirez, UNAM, Michoacan, Mexico
Dr. Daniel Slayback, Science Systems & Applications, Inc., MD, USA           
Dr. Orley R. Taylor, University of Kansas, USA
Dr. Stuart B. Weiss, Creekside Center for Earth Observations, CA, USA
Dr. Ernest H. Williams, Hamilton College, USA
Dr. Dick Vane-Wright, the Natural History Museum, London, UK
Dr. Myron P. Zalucki, University of Queensland, Australia



Kwame Anthony Appiah
John Ashbery
Paul Auster
Deirdre Bair
Russell Banks
Rick Bass
Magda Bogin
Sarah Browning
Christopher Cokinos
Robert Darnton
Alison Hawthorne Deming
Junot Diaz
Rita Dove
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Alexandra Fuller
Ross Gelbspan
Sue Halpern
Sam Hamill
Robert Hass
Tom Hayden
Edward Hirsch
Siri Hustvedt
Jewell James (Lummi Tribe)
Robert Kennedy, Jr.
George Kovach
Nicole Krauss
Peter Matthiessen
Michael McClure
Bill McKibben
Askold Melnyczuk
Michael Palmer
Janisse Ray
Jerome Rothenberg
Dick Russell
Michael Scammell
Grace Schulman
Alex Shoumatoff
A. E. Stallings
Judith Thurman
Melissa Tuckey
Chase Twichell
Rosanna Warren
Eliot Weinberger
Alan Weisman
Terry Tempest Williams
Michael Wood
City Lights Books


Homero Aridjis
Lucia Alvarez
Juan Domingo Arguelles
Chloe Aridjis
Eva Aridjis
Alberto Blanco
Coral Bracho
Federico Campbell
Marco Antonio Campos
Ana Cervantes
Jennifer Clement
Elsa Cross
María José Cuevas
Ximena Cuevas
Pablo Elizondo
Laura Esquivel
Manuel Felguérez
Betty Ferber
Paz Alicia Garciadiego
Emiliano Gironella
Jose Gordon
Hugo Gutiérrez Vega
Barbara Jacobs
Daniel Krauze
León Krauze
Mario Lavista
Paulina Lavista
Silvia Lemus de Fuentes
Soledad Loaeza
Pura López Colomé
Jean Meyer
Sergio Mondragon
Angelina Muñiz-Huberman
Carmen Mutis
Gabriel Orozco
Carmen Parra
Fernando del Paso
Marie-José Paz
Elena Poniatoswka
Arturo Ripstein
Vicente Rojo
Cristina Rubalcava
Juan Carlos Rulfo
Pablo Rulfo
Alberto Ruy Sánchez
Isabel Turrent
Juan Villoro
Roger Von Gunten


Katherine Ashenburg
Margaret Atwood
Wade Davis
Gary Geddes
Graeme Gibson
Terence Gower
Emile Martel
Jann Martel
George McWhirter
Michael Ondaatje
Nicole Perron
Linda Spalding
John Ralston Saul


Pierre Alechinsky (Belgium)
Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua)
Yves Bonnefoy (France)
Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa)
André Brink (South Africa)
Kjell Espmark (Sweden)
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (Member of Parliament, India)
Gloria Guardia (Panama)
Alejandro Jodorowsky (France/Chile)
Nicholas Jose (Australia)
Norman Manea (USA/Rumania)
Hasna Moudud (Bangladesh)
Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize, Turkey)
Jonathon Porritt (United Kingdom)
Sergio Ramírez (Nicaragua)
Lélia Wanick Salgado (Brazil)
Sebastião Salgado (Brazil)
Simon Schama (United Kingdom)
Ali Smith (United Kingdom)
Lasse Soderberg (Sweden)
Hugh Thomas (Lord Thomas, United Kingdom)
Tomas Transtromer (Nobel Prize, Sweden)
Lucy Vines (France)
Per Wastberg, (Sweden)
Fred Viebahn (Germany)

Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan (Make Way for Monarchs, U. of Arizona, USA)
Dr. José Sarukhan K. (Mexico)
Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute, USA)
Ina Warren, (Make Way for Monarchs, USA)
Scott Hoffman Black, (Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and IUCN Butterfly Specialist Group, USA)
Laura Lopez Hoffman (University of Arizona, USA)
Elizabeth Howard, (Journey North, USA)
Don Davis, (Monarch Butterfly Fund, Toronto, Canada)
Claudio Lomnitz (Center for Mexican Studies, Columbia University, USA)
Amory B. Lovins (USA)
Gail Morris (Southwest Monarch Study, USA)
Serge Dedina (Wildcoast, USA)
Eduardo Nájera Hillman (Costasalvaje, Mexico)
Wallace J. Nichols (California Academy of Sciences, USA)
Arturo Gómez-Pompa (University of California Riverside, Mexico/USA)
Scott Slovic, (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment,University of Idaho, USA)
Garrison Sposito (University of California at Berkeley, USA)
Georgita Ruiz (Tierra de Aves A.C., Mexico)
Manuel Grosselet (Tierra de Aves A.C., Mexico)
Diana Liverman (Institute of the Environment, University of Arizona, USA)
Valeria Souza (UNAM, Mexico)
Eduardo Farah (EspejoRed, Mexico)
Daniel Gershenson (Mexico)
Joaquín Bohigas Bosch (Instituto de Astronomia, UNAM, Mexico)
Jo Ann Baumgartner, (Wild Farm Alliance, USA)
Jack Woody(Regional Dr,Int.Programs,US Fish & Wildlife Service, Retired)
Lummi Tribe
Native American Land Conservancy (includes the following participating tribal communities: Chemehuevi, Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Navajo, Paiute).


Friday, February 14, 2014

Poem of the Week: Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine photo by John Lucas
Photo by John Lucas
excerpt from Don't Let Me Be Lonely  

Mahalia Jackson is a genius. Or Mahalia Jackson has genius. The man I am with is trying to make a distinction. I am uncomfortable with his need to make this distinction because his inquiry begins to approach subtle shades of racism, classism, or sexism. It is hard to know which. Mahalia Jackson never finished the eighth grade, or Mahalia's genius is based on the collision of her voice with her spirituality. True spirituality is its own force. I am not sure how to respond to all this. I change the subject instead.

We have just seen George Wein's documentary, Louis Armstrong at Newport, 1971. In the auditorium a room full of strangers listened to Mahalia Jackson sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and stood up and gave a standing ovation to a movie screen. Her clarity of vision crosses thirty years to address intimately each of us. It is as if her voice has always been dormant within us, waiting to be awakened, even though "it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, (and) through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech." 

Perhaps Mahalia, like Paul Celan, has already lived all our lives for us. Perhaps that is the definition of genius. Hegel says, "Each man hopes and believes he is better than the world which is his, but the man who is better merely expresses this same world better than the others." Mahalia Jackson sings as if it is the last thing she intends to do. And even though the lyrics of the song are, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me," I am hearing, Let it begin in me.

-Claudia Rankine

Use by permission.
From Don't Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf Press, 2004)

Claudia Rankine is the author of four collections of poetry, including the award-winning Nothing in Nature is Private. In The End of the Alphabet and Plot, she welds the cerebral and the spiritual, the sensual and the grotesque. Her latest book, Don't Let Me Be Lonely-a multi-genre project that blends poetry, essays, and image-is an experimental and deeply personal exploration of the condition of fragmented selfhood in contemporary America. Rankine is also the author of a play, Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, which is performed on a bus ride through the Bronx. She is also the founder of the OPEN LETTERPROJECT: Race and the Creative Imagination, and co-produces a video series, "The Situation," alongside John Lucas. Rankine co-edited the anthology American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language. Her latest book, Citizen: An American Lyric, is due out from Graywolf in October 2014.  

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Abortion Rights Poetry Contest Winners

Lighting the Way: The 3rd Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest
Sponsored by the Abortion Care Network & Split This Rock

The Abortion Care Network (ACN) and Split This Rock are pleased to announce the third annual poetry contest winners:

First place: “Migration Patterns” by Sara Brickman

Second place: “a poem about abortion” by Devi Lockwood

Third place: (tie) “Reclaim” by Adele Hampton and “Book of Names” by Seth Michelson

Read the winning poems below:

First Place:

Migration Patterns
Sara Brickman

Owosso, Michigan is cinder blocks
stacked on top of potato cellars and steamrolled
grey. There’s a lot of corn,
a Main Street. The high-school football stadium
shakes with glory every Friday. In high-school,
Jamie was a blonde stalk of laughter
with hair in his eyes. He came to class every day
wearing a black hoodie that read: ABORTION
IS MURDER, so I stopped being friends with him.

We were in drama together.
I’d played the Wall and he’d played Thisbe
in every production of Midsummer Nights Dream.
When I heard Jamie was in love with a boy
he’d met at church, and needed to hammer his desire
into a controllable affliction, I decided he and I
didn’t believe in the same God. My gods

were the Great Lakes, filled with fresh-water eels.
Lamprey eat by tunneling through flesh with teeth built
on a circle-sucker that rotates as it serrates through bone,
through opinion, through the nightmares of the back-alley
coat-hangers that wake me. Jamie,
I pray you’ve lost your faith.
I pray you’ve found a boy who loves you back,
and a God who loves you for wearing dresses
the way you did playing Thisbe.

Small-town Michigan knows right from wrong.
It is the place I come from, and the place I do not
come from, the town I drive through on my way between
cities, where being gay is not an illness you cut
from your body. Where abortion is a choice, not
a survival tactic. In the heartland,
girls are burying their dreams in the cornfields.
Carrying babies because they’ve been told
that’s all they’re good for, or ending them
because you can’t feed a child snow and rusted Chevys.

In these towns, don’t is definite as winter.
Don’t fuck, don’t disappoint the family,
don’t make excuses, you have bootstraps,
don’t make excuses you opened your legs,
don’t leave
, and if you do
don’t forget where you come from.
And despite these warnings,
some of us still come out faggots.

Some of us still fall so in love we finally
let him, under the metal bleachers that groan
with our families. Sear our eyes to the ground
when we find our home cannot love us, some of us
leave, throw ourselves under the wheels
of our future—let me tell you what it means

to start over someplace new.
You will never forget where you come from,
because the people in these cities will glare
like you are lamprey,
fanged and grey scaled, ‘cause you don’t speak
opera house. But your home
is where you build it.
You can live in lakes filled with oil.
You can tear through walls
with your mouth. Don’t believe them when they say choice
means death, means regret. Don’t listen when they say
You belong here. You belong to

yourself. Little sister, little Houdini,
don’t look back on the lakes brimming with home
as you’re leaving, sedan wheels spinning like serrated teeth,
cutting through who you were
tunneling to a new kind of
west–out of the middle,
                                       into the sky.

Sara Brickman is an author, performer, and activist from Ann Arbor, MI. An Artist Trust EDGE fellow, Sara’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Bestiary Magazine, Hoarse, The New, Courage: Daring Poems for Gusty Girls, and elsewhere. Her full-length collection Houdini’s Daughter was a finalist in Write Bloody Publishing’s annual manuscript competition. A teacher with Writers in the Schools and the 2013 Rain City Women of the World Slam Champion, Sara has performed her work at venues across North America, including the Bumbershoot Music Festival, Northwest Folklife, and Tedx Seattle. In 2010 she founded a multimedia reading series in her living room called The Hootenanny, to showcase groundbreaking writers and performers.  She lives and writes in Seattle, WA, where she would love doing the robot with you.

Second Place:

a poem about abortion
Devi Lockwood
No, not scrubs. Put on your tight purple dress and heels,
dig them into the new carpet. You have to look gorgeous,
that way they’ll trust you. And the patients start pouring in.
Here’s to many pregnant women in this small town, many
small hands growing inside them. A computer and some wine.
Jessica Brent came on the radio while I gave another woman
an ultrasound. She was picking her guitar, rubbing her belly,
telling the imagined audience she is the oldest child, and lovesick,
and where did this baby come from? Down by the river,
not a single couple makes out in the dark. After work
I like to stand there alone, where old meets new. I watch
the Mighty Miss, her ebbs. What is growth? Where are we

flowing out of ourselves and into someone else, their stories?
How slowly must a thing grow to be alive? I can’t quite make
out the other shore, but I know it’s there. I would reach my hands
out to touch it, but my arms aren’t long enough and I don’t know
how to swim. In this mighty state, a woman has to have an ultrasound
before the pregnancy is undone. Somewhere one of my patients pees
on a stick and lets down her hands and her hopes like a shade
at a too-bright window. It is dark outside. No one wants
the neighbors to see. You can’t outrun their hands digging
knives into turkey breasts, you can’t answer every question they ask,
every way they try to tell you they love you. Let’s legislate your body.
They love you. They do. To the many pregnant women

in this small town, and as many small bodies growing inside them,
I want to say: if we look nervous, it’s because we are. Somewhere
fear is a condom in the back of a wallet pressed shut, a pile of cash
on the kitchen table. Somewhere cities aren’t the only places
with healthcare and somewhere abortions are free. In my line of work,
I need love to keep my hands from freezing on the inside. There are people
carrying signs outside my door, shouting arguments about fingernail
development. I need a pen to spin through my fingers when they are idle.
I need you to turn up the radio, louder please. Just so that I don’t have
to listen to this shit again. When I retire, I want to live in a meadow with
not one child, not one soul in sight. Really, they kiss the wind
as they blow past.

Devi K Lockwood is a Harvard-Radcliffe woman-rower-poet-dancer in the spaces between things who will graduate in May 2014 with a degree in Folklore and Mythology and a language citation in Arabic. Devi plans to spend a year or two wandering and pursue an MFA in poetry soon thereafter. At the moment she is writing a book-length work of poems for her senior thesis inspired by stories she collected on an 800-mile bike trip that she took this summer along the Mississippi River Trail. This poem comes from that work in progress. Her poems have been published in Tuesday Magazine, Sinister Wisdom, Awosting AlchemyVerse Wisconsin, and others.

Third Place:

Adele Hampton

I'm not afraid to say abortion. It's a word that falls lead-heavy out of the mouth like your tongue can't handle the weight society hangs from its unassuming letters.

Some claim it as a self-induced miscarriage; others name it a mistake.

My girlfriend calls it what it is. Doesn't redefine the negative, instead taught herself how to forgive her past, looked at her choice in the mirror and learned not to flinch.

She took a pill and now she wears trust in the shape of hands tattooed across the back of her neck. She tells me those hands would have been small, like hers. She tells me that sometimes everything's a littler harder than it needs to be. She tells me "I feel like I have a debt. And it's one I won't ever be able to pay." I tell her that I love her. I tell her I want to hear the stories she's already turned the page on but has never burned.

There are different stages of panic she says. When you accept the lines are real. Again when you pick yourself up off the floor. Again when you speak acceptance, but never apathy.

I've never had an abortion. I've never had to see life in a pink plus sign; I've never had to sit in recovery. I've never had to choose.

But I've been three weeks late and standing still in a CVS aisle--picturing myself 9 months along at 21 years-old with nothing to my name but fear and trembling repeating,"You can't hold a baby with shaking hands. You can't hold a baby with shaking hands. You can't hold a baby with shaking hands."

Stefanie is 51; she is a minister and a stepmother. She said, "I chose abortion over suicide. Twice." She said she marks the result of each rape, each year with great sadness. She said she marks them, each year with gratitude. Gives thanks for the right to make up her mind about how to handle her own body, gives thanks for impartial and kind treatment, gives thanks for safety. Stefanie prays to God no one has to go through what she did.

But we can't always choose. We can't always sidestep the hardships. Can't always uncrumble the voice box society has tried to stomp into dust.

There is a woman dressed simple in blue with a rosary held tight to her lips standing in front of the Planned Parenthood I walk by everyday. Does she pray for torment or forgiveness upon a place that provides sanctuary for so many? I want to tell her that there's no judgement in the building. I want to tell her that bulletproof glass and heavy locks bar out the hate, so pray for strength instead of penitence because there is no shame cast upon weeping eyes or shaking hands, there is no branding iron there.

Out there lurks the cattle prods. States are becoming laboratories for coercion and scare tactics. Trying to duct tape the mouths of survivors, to tarnish the names of good women.

They don't want us to questions the ultrasound, the waiting period, the heartbeat. They don't want us to peel back the label of murderer; abortion scratched red-handed across our breasts.

But you are not photograph, you are not a silent image of a former pulse, not a caricature of sin. Do not let the legislation of those who will call you unclean stifle whatever courage you've mustered in order to look at yourself in the mirror and not see catastrophe because there are no disasters here.

There are no disasters here.

It's hard to write an ending for a poem that's about one. Abortion spills abruptly from the lips, but it is no stigma. It is no closed door, no political tool to weed out the unpleasantries.

It is what it is, an eight-letter word we should never be afraid to say.

Adele Hampton is a storyteller, poet, and lover of mason jars with roots planted in DC by way of upstate New York. She has performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Busboys & Poets, and is a Capturing Fire Queer Spoken Word Summit and Slam finalist. She is featured in Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry. She is also a Literary Death Match finalist and a member of Washington DC's Beltway Poetry Slam Team.

Third Place:

Book of Names
Seth Michelson

Where do we keep them, George
Tiller, Barnett Slepian, David
Gunn, these beloveds
who died like mourning doves
snared in barbed-wire fences, wings
beating against Church carpets
and the white tile of clinic floors,
where John Britton and James Barrett
bled out, each alone,
so much hot red pain
in the living mind, and how are we
to endure it, how to haul
the memories of Lee Ann Nichols, Robert
Sanderson, Shannon Lowney,
no wonder our wearied backs ache, our cries
for justice mute: what restitution
for murder, what answer
undoes gendered hate, and what
to say to the victims' chuldren
other than your parents died
to help women choose to live?

Seth Michelson lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches poetry in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Southern California. His most recent collection of poetry, Eyes Like Broken Windows (Press 53, 2012), won the poetry category of the 2013 International Book Awards, and his most recent book of poetry in translation is The Ghetto (Point of Contact, 2011), an English-language rendering of El Ghetto (2003), by the internationally acclaimed Argentine poet Tamara Kamenszain. He welcomes contact through his website,

Friday, February 7, 2014

Poem of the Week: Brenda Cárdenas



(after Ana Mendieta's Silueta series, earth-body works, 1973-80)

This body always compost--
hair a plot of thin green stems
snowing a shroud of petals,
skin mud-sucked to bark,
trunk only timber isthmusing
river banks, each finger
a dirty uprooting.

How many stones did I have
to swallow before my legs
believed their own weight?
Dropped into silhouette
of thigh and hip, a ridge
of ossicles crushed to fine
white whispers. Offering Cuilapán

their orphaned pleas, one
twin lingers outside the nave, one
cloistered in a vaulted niche,
its ledge of red roses edging
her blood-soaked robes.
Meat, bone-a deer's skitter
and bolt from the arrow,
an iguana's severed tail, spiny tracks.

They say we dig our own graves.
I have laid me down
in a Yagul tomb, outlined
our island arms with twig, rock,
blossom, mud. Our pulse with fire,
glass and blood. I've raised
myself in the earth's beds, left
this map, this exiled breath.

-Brenda Cárdenas

Used by permission.

*An earlier version of this poem was published in Cuadernos de ALDEEU, Fall, 2013 and as part of Mind the Gap, a portfolio of poem-print translations, Eds. Tim Abel and Sara Parr, 2013*

Brenda Cárdenas has authored Boomerang and From the Tongues of Brick and Stone. She also co-edited Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mind the Gap: A Portfolio of Poem-Print Translations, City Creatures: Animal Encounters in Chicago's Urban Wilderness, The Golden Shovel Anthology: Honoring the Continuing Legacy and Influence of Gwendolyn Brooks, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, Pilgrimage, Cream City Review, and elsewhere. She has given readings widely, including at the Art Institute of Chicago, The Tempe Center for the Arts, Brooklyn College, The Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Chazen Museum of Art, and the Bryant Park Reading Room. An Associate Professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cárdenas served as the Milwaukee Poet Laureate from 2010-2012. Brenda co-created and co-taught the PINTURA : PALABRA workshop at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Please feel free to forward Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this email, including this request. Thanks!

If you are interested in reading past poems of the week, feel free to visit the blog archive.