5th Annual Prize in Southern Poetry
Our fifth annual Prize in Southern Poetry contest poems were judged by author of short story, Lincoln Continental, Professor of Literature at Georgia Southern University, Dr. James Smith.
Dr. Smith selected, "Japanese Maple," by Gregory Emilio of Decatur, Georgia.
A PhD candidate in English at Georgia State University, Gregory Emilio has recent work published or forthcoming in Best New Poets, Crab Orchard Review, North American Review, Nashville Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and The Southeast Review. He's the Nonfiction Editor at New South, and tends bar at Bellina Alimentari.
White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails proudly presents Japanese Maple:
Drinking alone, I studied the tremor
of her bluish hands, the old poet's wife,
each time she raised her martini for more:
the vodka gauzy in the glass, the ice
particulates shimmering like cellar
motes of dust floating in a slant of light.
Her shaking hands, time's unruly decay,
in a bustling bar on Valentine's Day.
The poet looked at her as if she were
a Japanese Maple, the leaves burning
burgundy in a breeze, their crisp whisper
drowned out by the boisterous flirting
of twentysomethings sipping liqueurs
like they already knew about love. Sing,
Kansas poet, laureate of the lathe,
the steady blue notes of trembling praise.
But the lights were so low neither could read
the menu, and they both struggled to get
the bartender's attention, their drinks dead
as ragged glaciers. Oh, let them be wet
as rain tonight! Let him butter her bread,
communion plunging a stone into flesh
like there's no tomorrow. Another round,
Kim: their waltzing roots thirst underground.
Though my shift had ended, I had nowhere
better to be. Hypnotized by her hands,
I drank slowly from a mirror of beer,
thinking that it's probably Parkinson's,
that each of our bodies will have an affair
with some cancer or disease, make demands
to cough up our time, whittle us to one.
I closed my eyes. And then they were gone.