The Walrus Poetry Prize 2013

Thank you to everyone who voted and to our judges, award-winning poets Ken Babstock and Katia Grubisic and Walrus poetry editor Michael Lista. The Walrus Foundation extends its deepest gratitude to the Hal Jackman Foundation for its generous support of the Walrus Poetry Prize and the Best of The Walrus Poetry ebook.

Hal Jackman Foundation
Poetry in Voice


The Coin Under the Leftmost Sliding Cup

by Kateri Lanthier

Did you feel the Earth move? That was our Tectonic Dance Party.
The world is a crowded club with all the exits blocked.

I might sound like a goose in an opera gown, but I say again, I love you.
I’m tired of all this thinking at the very top of my lungs.

If only my fingers could keep up! Then the dialogue in my head
Wouldn’t unscroll like a ’30s Screwball in underwater slo-mo.

What if the truth of desire lies in Aesop upside down?
Where the fox’s teeth are the Unattainable, and the grapes full of rationalizations…

I’m not too cool to care, though. Nature and I have a lover’s quarrel.
I adopted the strut of the peacock and the nightingale’s nightgown.

After 15,000 texts, can we say we have a past?
My love for you is e-phemeral, elliptical, ekphrastic…

Love to me was cotton candy: spangle, collapse, tongue grit.
With you, it’s sadness scissored out. Lights on a suspension bridge.

Sport with me. I am the coin under the leftmost sliding cup.
Right, left, double-crossing…There. Now you’re in my pocket.

Cellphone, psalter, cigarette, gun: we like to set fire to our palms.
Rome burns as I photograph flowers or wear them as a bra.

Call it playing with fire. Call it connect-the-dots lightning.
Whenever we run down to the lake, the lake ascends sky mountain.

Streetlight’s an earthbound lunatic, courting June’s too-perfect leaves.
These gardens are a plein-air perfume factory, drunk on their own power.

The Spaceman loved the Gumball Machine (beautiful, beautiful).
But each time he took her by the arm, she lost another sweet eye.

It’s curtains for you, day. Stars eye us from the stage.
Ars longa, vita brevis, kid. Long walk, short pier.

Readers’ Choice

Scarecrow Maintenance

by Brent Raycroft

The old man’s itchy greatcoat fell to me
and given his complaint of its intransigence
I landed on the notion of storing it in the open.
Now that he can’t feel the elements
why not put this remnant of him in them?
There’s acid in the rain enough, enough UV,
that what outlasted him may not outlast me.

Get a pole and cross-pole. Fix them together.
Fence wire, screw nails, duct tape, whatever.
The less seen of this part the better.
There’s no need for carpentry. Let him be
haphazard. Let him fail in a high wind,
collapse with the weight of a cloudburst.
He should need maintenance.

When the pumpkin rots it’s shocking. Try a
punctured soccer ball. Or a mask from art class.
When the straw hat’s gone, tack on a baseball cap.
When you find him flattened by some enemy,
reach your arm beneath his backbone,
thin within the war-green wool, and heave.
Stamp your heel down hard where he is planted.

Crows come regardless.
Deer and rabbits act as though he’s harmless.
But I’ve seen men and women startled.
I’ve backed into him, hoeing in the garden,
felt a poke between my shoulder blades.
He’s got hypervigilance. Low-level PTSD.
Those sleeves held wide show no sign of fatigue.


Moving Back to the Bakken Play

by Nathan Mader

Oil derricks on the outskirts of Estevan gesticulate
like dawn-risen monks bowing at unseen shrines.
Around here, everybody’s working overtime.
The new Ford dealership keeps our oil patch

kids, barely off their bicycles, in custom F-550s,
the higher the chassis, the closer to whatever it is
Linkin Park fans like. Jet Skis. Suzukis. Christ.
We’ve returned to a time zone of twelve hour

shifts, a boomtown kept afloat by hard-earned
cash blown on mortgages or coke. After dark,
fleets of roughnecks stir like stagehands between
acts on the Bakken play’s black expanse, methane

flames lighting sections of sunless sky clear into
North Dakota. We all want to believe we’re here
and here to stay. The difference between a have
and a have-not province is night and day.

The Bone Chapel

by Cassidy McFadzean

What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be.

The friar’s hologram greets us thusly. Says if our souls
are pure and good we will see a vision of immortality.
Think St. Pio of Pietrelcina. He bore stigmata for fifty
years. Worse than my monthlies? Here’s an image

of Jesus bleeding; the red of his thorn crown disturbs
me. The friar was a good man. He walked with a wicker
basket collecting alms while sporting a metal vest
beneath his blouse. Teeth dug into his skin, rubbed

his flesh raw. Like a ribbon around his finger, pain
reminded him of sin. So he made penance by gathering
bits of bread and pails of milk. I’m hungry, can you fetch
me a snack? My whip chases the devil out of my fat

and strikes the switch that turns me on. We enter
the monks’ undercroft, find six chambers in a candlelit
crypt. Beside the mounds of holy dirt, I spy a human
skull with thighbone wings, spiny light fixtures. Jaws

locked in intricate floral arrangements: pistil, stamen,
mandible. Savour this: we enter the hall of pelvises,
the crypt of shinbones, skeletons with scythes crafted
artfully. The Princess of Barberini hangs from the ceiling.

We see couples drop to their knees. We are moved
along. In the Corridor of Exaltation, visitors lie
at the feet of friars half rotted away. Such displays
distract me from rear wall detailing: a coat of arms

made of crossed arms: one clothed, one muscular.
How can I keep my memory of this moment clear?
Like cartloads of bodies pulled to the friary and air-
buried, time eats away at our memories, no matter

how dear. Then the gift shop, and a woman I follow
outside. Her short black hair and Ray Bans. Wedged
heels, tight grey jeans. I wanted to be her, in Rome,
and disappear down the street talking on an iPhone.

Notes on Her Dear Perversion

by Meira Cook

G. O’Keeffe is invited to the Islands by Dole to paint pineapples.
They want someone who understands the hard poke
of deciduous hunger. Or they want someone
who can turn stomach acid into the lost translations
of What a Woman. Bright, bright. Lots of nipples hanging off.
Might mention “the smell of cut fruit
on the blade of a knife” is the memo from the desk
of some ad exec to the effect of.
G. O’Keeffe paints engorged scarlet ginger hanging
off the sky’s blue tree. Paints the shuddering
inner lives of hibiscus and plumeria.
Oh! green crevasse tongued by silver streams.
Doesn’t paint a single pineapple so they send her home.
Back in New Mexico, with the desert foaming around her,
G. O’Keeffe remembers the Islands.
The sea is bigger than the box it comes in, she thinks,
what it means to say “Goodbye, dear one. Wish you were.”
She finally paints it, her mild and doleful
pineapple of the mind.