2017 Gauntlet Participant: Dennis Preston

 

I hope you are inspired, entertained, maybe even motivated to take a look at your own life, and the path you are taking, as well as the choices you are making.

 

You

Thought about you today.

I suppose it’s because I dreamed

about you last night.  Nothing different:

drama and chaos.  You came in

like a whirlwind, and left

the same way.  The damage done

in between was devastating.  

I shouldn’t blame you though.

I’ve always been fascinated

with storms.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Dennis J. Preston lives in Owensboro, Kentucky.  Retired from teaching, he is pastor of The Mt. Zion Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  He received his doctorate from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with his family.  He has published poems in Trajectory, This Wretched Vessel, & Grace, The Messenger of Sudden Thunder, as well as three books of poetry: In the Ash Heap: Poems From the Book of Job, The Tree of Days, and Prayer at First Light.    

 

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Doug Self

 

God Washed Up

Her body is not so white as anemone petals nor so smooth—Nor so remote a thing–that a man should forget there is no beach without water and sand—nor is there life without water and a notion.

Keep breathing under the ocean, the salt will help you float like the Dead Sea—

Her body is not so white anymore,

                 pallid,

                             moist,

                                          and rubbery.

A recently beached whale bloated into blubbery.

 

She sings of only blood or love

while inhaling shell shards and glass, face

down

 

as the death rattles break on the shore behind,

momentarily submerging her feet,

leaving strands of seaweed

between her toes.

 

Epilogue:

The little boys on the beach circle around,

plastic shovels and pails in hand,

refusing to bury her.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Doug Self is a poet.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Hannah LeGris

 

 

***

what if I can’t get out of bed

what if I can’t stop sliding my tongue against yours

what if I just want to live off the taste of your mouth

what if I’m still kissing you and I’ve forgotten how to write poetry because all my poems were about being frustrated and unhappy and I’m not that

what if you said all you need to do is push the pen across the paper but I don’t write on paper unless I’m making lists

what if all my lists are fragments of conversations I had planned to make into a poem

what if all my conversations are with you and I’m too busy paying attention to what you’re saying to write any of it down

what if I’m too distracted listening to ladies and gentleman we are floating in space

what if I’m leaving in a week and what if your flight doesn’t arrive

what I have to drive to atlanta and tell my lover I’m in love with you

what if I am accidentally boastful and foolish because love makes you irrational

what if I can’t be any other way  

what if he is surprised and hurt but would never tell me

what if he tells me years later and I feel like an asshole  

what if he is wearing those tight jeans from japan

what if he and I drink cocktails and eat steamed fish and ride our bikes and popsicles drip down our hands and the handlebars get sticky in the heat and strangers’ dogs lick them clean what if he turns on the lights strung around his tiki bar

what if he carefully makes me a drink that I’ve never had before

what if we split it  

what if the cocktail is the perfect amount of sweet

what if there’s a part of me that misses how easy it was to be angry at him

what if I secretly write down all of our conversations and make poetry out of them

what if I leave and nothing and everything has changed and I don’t care

what if the body really does heal itself

what if time is all it really takes

what if I meet you in austin it is too hot to sleep in the desert

what if we refuse to turn on the air conditioner and our bodies stick together  

what if my skin burns against yours

what if you slide your teeth along my nipples and I taste like the salt blocks our horses swept their tongues across in the pasture

what if they licked that salt because they needed it to stay alive

what if desire is a hungry thing

what if heartbreak has its place

_______________________________________________________________________________

Hannah LeGris holds a MA in English Literature from the University of Kentucky and a BA in English from the College of Wooster. She has taught memoir and creative non fiction with The Young Women Writers Project, the SwallowTale Writing Project at the Fayette County Detention Center, and to University of Kentucky students. She has never studied poetry until The Gauntlet. Hannah works in the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, where she teaches service learning, recruits prospective students, and advises. She enjoys running, biking, letter-writing, mixed-media collage-making, and throwing dinner parties.   

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Sylvia Collings

 

“Hope. Sameness. I write about what I have been through in hopes someone else can relate. Like maybe something I wrote could save them in a way. I just hope that readers feel understood, loved and supported.”

 

Hometown Strangers

Stare into my eyes

Let me make constellations out of your freckles

Open your lips to show me your smile-

Its contagious

You leave me a child

In giggling fits and blushed cheeks

Sweaty palms and sleepless nights

Dare I mention my appetite

Cliche love could be right around the corner

If only I knew your name  

_______________________________________________________________________________

Sylvia Collings is an aspiring writer, photographer and hippie.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Jessica Swafford

 

“I try to find the truth of a moment or make sense of something that has stuck with me or confused me. I write trying to obtain some sort of explanation for what intrigues, bewilders, or disgusts me. I write until I have an epiphany or until the end product of the poem hits me in the gut. If these things fall into place, the writing will find its audience.”

 

This Is How I Love Myself

I had a knot

From a fall

Two years ago

It never went away

But crusted over

Barnacles on a hull

I scrubbed it with soap

Caressed it with lotion

Hid it with sleeves

It is only recently

That it has shown improvement

I smothered it with acid

Scales falling away

It is nearly gone

Except for a heart-shape place

This is how I love myself

Not the preservation

Of what is there

But the destruction

Of the parts

I can no longer

Stand to look at

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

Jessica Swafford is a poet and mixed media artist from Georgetown, Kentucky. She has been published in several journals including The Heartland Review, Inscape, Pollen, and The Georgetown Review as well as the anthologies, & Grace and Her Limestone Bones. She was a 2016 Top 10 finalist for The Gravity of the Thing’s Six Word Story Contest. She was also the winner of the 2014 May B. Smith Essay Competition. Most recently her work was included in A BROAD Perspective, part of the BROADS United movement. She is currently participating in The Gauntlet, a yearlong generative writing workshop.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Clay Shields

 

Irreverence and reverence.

 

Bathroom Graffiti Diptych

Love yourself enough.

                                        I have low blood pressure.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Clay Shields received an M.A. from the University of Kentucky and now all he wants to do is deface it. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in STORY Magazine, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, Anthropoid, and Reservoir. He has crooked middle fingers, a floating clavicle, and is allergic to bee stings.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Tina Parker

 

I hope a reader finds a raw honesty, and a sense of connection that brings deeper understanding.

 

On Women, Their Bodies

One uterus fussed
Another complained
I shushed them with cotton
Tampons saturated in glycerine

One uterus sang a right pretty tune
Another bickered with her tubes
One clamped down on my fingers
Another sputtered blood in my face
I cured them all with a daily salt douche

One tilted, tried to hide
Another shed its skin each time I went in
Some had long been empty
Most were full full of jewels
Full of pins
One held the watch and chain
I’d missed for years

_______________________________________________________________________________

Tina Parker grew up in Bristol, Virginia, and now lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband and two young daughters. Her chapbook of poems Another Offering is available from Finishing Line Press, and her poetry collection Mother May I is available from Sibling Rivalry Press. Her poetry has received support from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and individual poems have appeared in Rattle, PMS: poemmemoirstory, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, and The Collapsar, among others. To learn more about Tina, visit www.tina-parker.com.