Next Line, Please

“I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You”

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By David Lehman

October 18, 2016


 

 

The prompt: to write a brief poem beginning with the last line of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” The result: a bounty of poems notable for their excellence and variety. I’m delighted. Kudos to all.

There are six finalists, which I will present in no particular order. Michael C. Rush (“At the Polls”) applies the prompt to the election booth. Angela Ball composes a moving eulogy to her “aficionado / of Noir.” In Charise Hoge’s “Return,” the first line (“I stop somewhere waiting for you, / a few paces from reason”) returns in inverted form in the ending (“I remember how to decay, a beginning. / I stop waiting for you somewhere.”) Ricky Ray’s “flowers of memory” yield a “high”; “nose” rhymes with “noise,” and the “noble nostrils” that take in the scent teach him the “what of am.” The sensuality of Courtney Thrash’s poem is fresh. Linda Marie Hilton ’s “Initials” recall Arthur Rimbaud’s “Voyelles” (“Vowels”).

Here are the finalists’ poems:

Charise Hoge
Return

I stop somewhere waiting for you,
a few paces from reason.

Like the morning glory, I remember
glorifying the gilded blue of new
spreading welcome.

Giddiness overshadowed
by beckoning back to day’s end,
by collapse into creases
the sepal skirt that hemmed
me to the skies of us.

I remember how to decay, a beginning.
I stop waiting for you somewhere

 

Courtney Thrash

Poem

I stop somewhere waiting for you;
the grasses are blades in my feet.
clouds stretch out in vain;
a blood-red Sun will not be whitewashed.
I will not leave as I came.
the livestock bleats and bleeds;
I stand naked, rid of Her rags,
in pooling life washed white.
were you ever without your shroud?
the rain falls on seeds and skin bare.
you reap what is sown.
I wait awhile.

 

Linda Marie Hilton
Initials

I stop somewhere, waiting for U
Ninth one dotted e.e. writer;
A narrow space, not much tighter
To stand alone, just one of Two.
Some wear a serif, I do not.
I subject U, verb transitive;
I, sole vowel, U action give:
Such gracious length i’ve always got.
Eyes alight on your fair actions;
U spice my life, you luscious herb:
Against aggression U’re my curb;
Eye roll on, having no traction.

 

Angela Ball

Noir

I stop somewhere waiting for you,
my aficionado
of Noir:

An honest man is lured
into vice, a squeeze
on the down-low,
murderous insurance.

The night disc-jockey
introduces a number:
his wife and her beau enter
an embrace.

A towering miscreant crashes
in flames—too late
for the good man manqué.

I wait for you under the dark marquee
whose lights have circled
each atom
of our past. Please
catch up.

  

Ricky Ray

Just a Moment

 

I stop, soul, somewhere, waiting for you
to catch up, and looking back I see
your face buried in the flowers of memory,
your nose deep in the branch inhaling
twenty springs in a snort. How’s the high?
Grey winter contaminations? The year half
the sparrows froze and fell? The noise
of them breeding back to their former glory?

Come up, soul, horse, eater of bruises
and apples, I need your ancient nose
to tell me the what of am, your noble
nostrils to remind me that no scent
captures the dog, who, ruff, lingers
over the stain, pays her urine, trots on.

  

Michael C. Rush

At The Polls

I stop somewhere waiting for you
You made promises

I’m somewhere, waiting for you to stop
You promised

I’m waiting for you to stop somewhere
because you promised but didn’t deliver

Unable to support yesterday’s broken promises
I stop waiting for you and wait for someone
Somewhere to make new promises

But for you, I stop waiting
Here, I stop waiting, and now

I stop

Honorable mentions go to Paul Michelsen, Berwyn Moore, Patricia Smith, and Elizabeth Solzburg.

 


Who should get the gold? You be the judge. Your job: to write a short poem voting for your choice among the six. Here is how you vote: Use a line from the poem as an epigraph (or in your title; if in the title dedicate the poem to the author). Your poem can but need not make an argument or compare your choice with the other finalists. Fifteen lines or less. Optional: mention Walt Whitman or “Song of Myself” in your poem. Authors of the finalist poems are encouraged to write a poem about a poem not your own.

Deadline: Sunday night, October 23, at midnight in any time zone.


David Lehman is a poet and the general editor of The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.

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