2016 Poetry Competition Winner

*

The Long Arm by Miriam Celeste Ramos

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I studied hard I read a lot I walked and ran and ate my five a day

I went from Brooklyn to Manhattan back when it wasn’t trendy

to be from the hood

because I wanted more art more freaks like me, more

people who flourished in the night at three

fewer people who put me down for enunciating well (and not being pregnant).

*

The older I got the sadder I got so I left New York and I went driving. I went

west through farms and

lived in little towns and

understood the heights of rain clouds and

the lows of cheap beer and

listened to bikers’ life stories and

drifters who could have been doctors

admitting to me that they’d failed.

I got degrees.

I got stories out

I got poems out, I

ran

I walked

I ate my five a day

I took my pills

I squeezed into dresses

I fell out of beds

I swayed on rooftops with echoes in my head

and then I flopped backward

and learned to swim in beer

and whiskey

and anything clear

and by the time I got to California I was

Michael motherfuckin’ Phelps at the bar

and I’d cry for no reason and

keep hiding scars and I’d

write for all reasons and

pull people away from their own edges

going, “don’t be like me.”

*

I worked in churches

I used whips

I hiked hills

I crossed bridges

I did pushups

I fell asleep on buses

I ran out of food but never a job

I ran out of a job but never good company, and still

I only seemed to understand that horrible aggro wind

that chases cars and trucks on the roadside –

that whoosh that says, figure yourself out

or all you’ll be is this wind.

A displaced breath of

what you should have been.

*

And state and city and car and bar and then country and country I went

bent, now sick now tired

funnily enough married

pulling shiny things out of my hair, our of my teeth, out of my face out of my ass

to go look! I’m shiny, afraid to tell the past

and I’d run and walk and eat my five a day

I learned another language

now I’m on three

and I worked and wrote films and sat up with photoshop til dawn

I jumped through the static walls of anxiety attacks and

ended up on mirrored floors with people telling me,

“You should meditate, for this sourceless pain you’ve only attracted to you.”

I meditated I sept I worked I prayed I held my fists shut the fuck tight

clasped around the sweat in my palms

it was the only physical manifestation of the faith I had

and I fell asleep with all my clothes on, with my shoes on,

with my bags by the door, I woke in the dark

I slept through the light,

I lived in the Arctic Circle, I partied in Berlin,

I stared at the clouds from hotel windows,

knowing I should be doing

something else.

*

I counselled and I was counselled.

I hugged

and I laughed

and I cried

and I lied

and I sang

and I danced

and I did and I did

and I was and I was

and I wished and I wished

and I prayed and I prayed

and I do

and I laugh

and I dance

and I cry

and I talk

and I sigh

and I lie

and I pray

how I pray

and I wish

how I wish

that time didn’t have

such a long fucking arm

I’m thirty-five now and that arm is

thirty-one years long and

ten years wide and

when I least expect it…

*

When, in that glittery space

where miracles slink in to charm and to save,

in those beautiful moments of peace,

when I’m laughing the loudest or

dancing the fastest,

the arm is around my waist.

*

And all my doing and knowing and seeing and needing means nothing.

*

For the arm brings me back to

certain basements

certain closets

certain beds

too big for my short legs

to kick free from

to fall from

to run from.

2 thoughts on “2016 Poetry Competition Winner

  1. What a beautiful poem. It takes the popular premise of ‘travel is always good for you, travel is a sign that you’re living’, and reveals that travel can be just as much about running away from life as running towards it. Great flow.

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