Dudley Randall Poetry Contest
The Dudley Randall Poetry Contest, hosted by University of Detroit Mercy's English Department, has been a 40-year tradition of encouraging and recognizing student creativity and excellence. We congratulate our 2016 Dudley Randall Poetry Contest winners:
1st place: Alexis Carlisle, "Honey, I love you"
Honey, I Love You
by Alexis Carlisle
She bleaches her hair as if she is trying to bleach away the past;
And even though my roots have grown long
I can still remember the burning sense of rebirth.
She soaks in the first blush of the sun
Like a cat bathing in the rays that
Run their fingers through her hair; Long and tangled
With past stories that only come out
On late night drives home from the bar.
She doesn’t remember telling the story.
And when she asks if I’ve heard it before
I always say no
Because when she speaks, it is the spring
Not the cruelest month, nor the one that comes after or before.
She is the month in between.
Skipped in calendars – Bleached out – Lying in the sun –
– Laughing – She is actually laughing –
At all of the things about me that my mother rolls her eyes at
And in that moment I start to understand what love is
– is the month of love
The protector and the keeper
And I wonder why I do not protect her as she does for me
But I’ve learned there has to be a teller and a listener
I let her tell
Because out of her mouth sprout flowers and perfume
And I am just the schoolboy
Who forms his first crush on Persephone
Not knowing she is the eternal spring
She melts in the passenger seat of my car
With the seat warmer on she melts like honey
The weather is most unstable in spring
But she doesn’t know, the voices she hears
Are just the bees at work building honeycombs in her hair
Lightweight, but stronger than you could ever imagine
The man outside the bar told us that spring is here
And she will not back down
She is two swords and no armor
She is honey with arsenic
The month that no one can see, nor can they pronounce,
She is the first blossom and the first crush,
She is as unstable as spring and twice the beauty
But will slap the mouth that calls her beautiful
And tell them “I. Am. Smart.” Brighter than the sun.
But also, right now, asleep like the moon.
Behind me I can hear her purr with golden strands,
Basking in the sunlight.
And it is all of this that is stored in the body of a girl
And the underestimation of such feminine power is punishable by damnation
That pulls Persephone back down.
But please, be cautioned, because like the sun,
She will rise again.
Second Place: Jasmina Cunmulaj, "A Note to My Father"
A Note to My Father
by Jasmina Cunmulaj
You placed your hand
that grasped the fishing pole
as you whispered
the winning strategy
a rhythmic jerk
like a marionette,
playing his puppet
and danced the invisible line across the pond
of a moment in time.
And as the line pulled
and rippled a crack
down the middle,
a silver-breasted fish soared out, like a newborn
wailing for a first breath
But quickly delved back
into the one-way mirror,
and released our connection,that was held simply by string. Just as the ripple calmed,
the shadow of our bond that once casted over the grey waters, vanished with the sun.
And with every sunrise overlooking the pond,
I hoped it would return
Third Place: Jazmin Nevarez, "I wonder"
by Jazmin Nevarez
I wonder what it’s like,
to live in a house
That doesn’t chip from the ceilings,
Into our Holy Water bottles
That Tita uses to bless our doors, daughters and foreheads.
I wonder what it’s like, to live in a house
Without missing shingles on the roof,
walls that are finished,
fresh paint-covered plaster
I wonder what it’s like
To not live in fear of the Red Line.
Especially on summer nights alone,
In one ear-headphone. Waiting, watching
Cityscapes with high rises too pretty to see
My South Side home,
I wonder what it’s like to permanently live in a house
Where the windows and doors have molding
And white picket fences are in view.
A bedroom to myself,
No urge to record silver badges on front lawns
Just in case another Black and Brown life
Is taken too soon. I wonder.
I wonder what it’s like
To live with a deep, dwelling security.
Not having to fight
consistently for equality.
A tiring effort, unfortunate example of timeless
Time and again.
I wonder what it’s like
To live with peace of mind.
Without the thought of my 9-year-old brother
Wearing a transparent backpack to school.
Walking through metal detectors before class
Because, maybe, just maybe
His classmate’s father left his nine
Unlocked, easy access
To protect himself, his family, his pride–a true Sugarman, in his prime.
I wonder what it’s like to live
Outside the confines of condensed, cramped
Polluted danger forced upon us,
Away from suburban and lavish properties
That unsuccessfully attempt to suck the soul from what is left of our woods.
Moving in on us.
Capitalizing off our soon-be-gentrified neighborHoods.
1st place: Alexis Carlisle, "Things I've Found While Cleaning My Room"
Things I've Found While Cleaning My Room
by Alexis Carlisle
- The band aid you gave me when we were in 8th grade when I thought we were going to get married, I never took it out of the wrapper and for some reason I’ve kept it in the same box I keep money.
- A pearl necklace that my dad added a pearl to each year on my birthday; it is now a complete never ending loop.
- Anna Nicole Smith’s biography where most would keep a bible, I know her holy words better than Father Joseph knows the scripture.
- A receipt that slipped out of his pocket and I shoved it into mine to remember a time when I loved him.
- The stereotypical half eaten rotten apple that only the grossest people keep under their bed.
- A student written postcard from Alma College I received as a junior, I kept it not because of an overwhelming interest in the college, but rather because I felt like Cody class of 2014 really cared even with no picture on the card I cried because I loved Cody class of 2014 so much.
- A 16th birthday card from my dad, the inside said “I will always love you, no matter if we are together or apart” it was the first time I realized he completely understood what 16 meant.
- The picture I was drawing in math class the first time I ever pierced my own skin on purpose it was only half finished and some things are better incomplete.
- A miniature pin from a miniature bowling set I threw away during a panic attack I threw away 2 garbage bags full of things that day and I cried the entire time as my mother kept on saying “you don’t have to do this”.
- A very tiny pencil...You snapped my pencil in half the day you didn’t have one and you then sharpened the half with the eraser and gave it back, I taped it to my wall in memoriam of the senior boy who put the sad sophomore girl first.
- I found some notes that I took when while talking on the phone to you when were best friends and you were telling me about how you wanted to become a pilot because you were chasing the crash and you said “it will be sunny and I will go down quick” as I continued to cry you told me it would be fine, that you would die quickly and it wouldn’t hurt that bad. I couldn’t fall asleep that night.
- A spider that I was going to kill but started to appreciate the mutual comfort we both felt living together.
- A water bottle with her chewed gum stuck to the side of it I kept on my bedside table for weeks as a reminder that she had been in my room, she had been in my bed.
- Ripped nylons that I promised my mother would last me until New Year’s but it was only November and they were very ruined.
- Diamond earrings my dad gave me for my sixteenth birthday, I held them in my hand for a minute wondering why he gave them to me. I was turning 16 years old not 23, and that’s when it hit me, that my dad understood that he would never see 23 or 46 or 17. He understood how everything happens suddenly and at once and I didn’t even understand the situation enough to write a goddamn eulogy.
- 16 will mean more to me than 21 ever could, more than a 21 gun salute and the bullet shell casing from the ceremony on my nightstand there will always be a weight on 16 and goal on his 66. I finish dusting off old memories and shove most of them back under my bed and as I leave no matter how many times I try the switch, I can’t turn off the light.
2nd place: Patrick Redigan, "Bradley"
by Patrick Redigan
I remember the dashboard,
the trashed ashtray woefully
discarded bubblegum and
Beside lay a royal blue sticker:
simple and shiny reminding her
“one day at a time”
the fever mantra, the
words she pledged her life to.
Her gold medallion
hung from the rearview mirror
but we knew there was no sense
in looking back.
Ten years clean, or so it seemed
I never could tell when she closed her eyes
and hid her hands beneath our table.
A high-strung junkie for Jesus, watch as she
drowns her sorrows in his blood,
stained like the glass, the depiction
of the blessed mother that
hung on the living room wall
beside my 7th grade portrait made
crooked by my clumsy fingers.
The gaze of the virgin caught me
dead in my tracks, my heart was
hers to hold. The features were soft and
her shawl was the shade of a dream,
a creamy bluish-green like the little eyes on
my little face. I close them
for my nightly prayers,
but when I wake, I want to face my fears
and no longer force my smiles. To
speak my mind, love my enemies and to
test the waters of a fiery lake and
cool my tongue with the serpentine
mercury of ceaseless self-discovery.
I want a puppy.
I want to be someone new, someone cool
too free to be me, too true to be you.
I want creation.
But placed beside expired plates,
a grey and faded sticker pasted
hastily long ago:
a word, a whimper
One last commandment heard
high above the demon hiss of the
rusted exhaust pipe, fuzzed slightly
by a ghostly sneeze of smoke.
It spits in the face
of my mother’s embrace,
murmured into ears too
broken to be bothered:
3rd place, tied: Antony Nedanovski, "My Ladybug Queen"
My Ladybug Queen
by Antony Nedanovski
“Antony,” even after all these years of having heard my name, I know that this word—out of all the
words she may say daily—will bring out that accent. “Antony, leave those girls alone.” I couldn’t
help it. They wouldn’t move, and neither would my eyes, which had been transfixed on them
momentarily. I was trying to derive some meaningful lesson from their spotted shell when I nudged
one with my finger. With sunlight illuminating its underbody, glimmering between its tiny wings, it
flew down towards my feet. Despite having witnessed the climactic descent of their sister, the others
continued to rest on the window. I thought of the times I had accidentally crushed them under my
feet; the absolute terror of thinking what lay beneath my sock. Or the times when I found them at
the windowsill, already resting. I wondered with fates like these, and no outcome other than death,
why my mom loved these little critters. Sometimes their shell was attractive to the eye, a smooth red
with black dots; but then there were the bland, light brown shelled ones that roamed the basement
tiles and found themselves under my feet. She viewed them like they had just married into the
family—she wouldn’t kick them out, but then again, she didn’t want them to be at the table when we
ate. So on her finger, or sometimes on a napkin, she’d pick them up and place them at the
windowsill. They were her girls, because with three sons and no time for company, she found them
comforting. Uninvited visitors, but a gracious host she was—and a very clumsy tenant I was,
uneventfully ending their lives time to time. Then came my nudging finger, rudely making this
ladybug soar against its will. At my mom’s insistence, I let the others be. Sitting at the mahogany
table, cluttered with books from past semesters, I watched the other girls remain steadfast.
“Just leave them alone, they’ll bring good luck.”I could tell without looking that my mom was in her chair, doing her Sudoku and shaking her headat me. She was always superstitious.
3rd place, tied: Erin Stein, "Frustration While Watching the Evening News"
Frustration While Watching the Evening News
by Erin Stein
“It’s about the children here, Huel.”
The News shares a mini-documentary on how
Michigan let toxic water corrode pipes
and how it has seeped into people’s bloodstreams,
as if they need more negativity in their systems.
“88 schools were closed, how does that help the children?”
A fancy(ish) man in a cheap looking suit, (let his dress define him)
paired with an even cheaper tie— pipes in to remind the three social justice soldiers that strikes
are unconstitutional. And that it’s immoral to stand up for better rights.
The Suit must have never read Jeremy Bentham or Martin Luther King Jr.
“Were any of the members involved fired?”
Of course not, they kindly stepped down, because resigning
looks more noble than getting ripped of one’s title.
But then again, teeth falling out because gums can’t hold
bone anymore doesn’t look that noble either.
“You should let the parents know if another sick out is planned, it’s only fair.”
The term fair seems to bite a little,
it is filled with ironic venom that does not go unnoticed.
When the textbooks used in these ancient ruins of schools don’t include the last
two presidents, nor the Recession, that seems to ring more to the hymn of unfairness.
What’s unfair is daydreaming in class and looking up to see the bleak
heavens poke out between the cracks in the ceiling, while rocking in a desk that has barely two legs.
It’s walking down a hallway and seeing bits of nature take over the cracks were the
Foundation (ha!) of the building meet dirt.
But don’t worry Suit, this picture of history will make its way into books
that hopefully everyone will get to read.