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2017 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize Winner

The Vanishing

Yes I know the world is blasting
clear off its tracks spilling its
marbles leaving us
reeling like drunks before
the hangover clamps
down yes I know things are
bad and good
people are worried I
know that some of us
will disappear and won’t
come back the Giant
Ibis for example or the New
Caledonian owlet-nightjar the
Georgia aster and a picky
Goldenrod that loves only certain
mountains even the great
lumbering mammals smiling from
mascots and advertisements
may fade into a red sun-
set yes things are vanishing a
mile a minute but right
now I am standing in a circle
of humans hip to hip a hot river
of music playing so slow so thick
we sway as one body & the golden
cage that balances in
my chest has a door it
swings wide open no
guards no whistles no
lock to pick just
a cloud of birds
white birds with no
name they keep coming this
blurred murmuration these
flowers with wings soft
they settle about the room
watching as eyes closed voices
stilled we feel our way over
mountains of bones
along the edges of
freak and whore and faggot
into a species
of peace an
amnesty
of the soul
and all this time
they are watching
blinking roosting close
ready to lift their wings ready
to knock at the walls for hours
days years ready to
sing

Marisa Handler is the author of the award-winning memoir Loyal to the Sky, and her essays, poetry, and fiction have been published in numerous publications. She earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has received multiple fellowships, including a Fulbright and an Elizabeth George Foundation grant. She teaches Creative Writing at Mills College and Stanford, and is also a singer-songwriter.  www.marisahandler.com.

Judge Alicia Ostriker is a poet and critic, author of seventeen collections of poetry, most recently The Book of Seventy (winner of the National Jewish Book Award);The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; and Waiting for the Light. She has received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has been twice nominated for the National Book Award among other honors. As a critic she is the author of Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America and other books on poetry and the Bible. She is a distinguished Professor Emerita of Rutgers University, teaches in the low-residencey Poetry MFA at Drew University, and is currently a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.