Literary Honors Finalists – Excerpts

Black Lemon – Viola Maxim

Vero clutched at her olive skin, damp with sweat. She would leave this bed now, the last place she and Geoff had in common. Doll’s legs, joined with cloth at the joints, sprawled carelessly over the bed, and for a horrified second, Vero could not remember what process was required to move them. Then Vero glared at her legs and commanded their attention. They responded with a vigor she did not feel in her stitched chest and she toppled from the bed, spilling the third, unfinished bottle of wine (Exhibit C).

The Heaven of Water – Lance Weller

Look here. My heart has grown a mouth that is always hungry. Soft lips conduct a sarcoid heat to my innermost parts, whispering secrets I have not the knowing of. The blood beneath my skin rushes like silk. Like the worm’s cocoon I am boiled nightly. I am peeled, stretched thin. Spasms in soft tissue as strange spongy teeth nibble at the hollows of my chest, setting the firm, placid lumps seasoning my breasts to sympathetic trembling. As of nervous flesh under a stranger’s touch, my inner landscape trembles. My caustic blood runs hot. Nights, I sweat.

Razor Hair Girls – Elizabeth R. McClellan

You and me, we’re both hag-ridden, haunted
by past and present specters of razor hair girls
who looked so soft when we wanted to touch them,
who leaned in close, got sado-artistic, left legacies of
whip-thin scars that show through clear in the light

of five a.m. Elvira when we’ve talked since ten
the night before. I’m scared of girls, you say
and we understand each other perfectly, ‘cause I know
however soft she looks, she can cut you.

Etymology – Courtney Meaker

“When she is submerged in words, late into the evening, I walk to the desk, rub her shoulders, whisper an invitation to bed, and say even early man took a break from hunting to mate. She tries to explain the limited linguistics of early man that led to the naming of mountains and gods as I kiss her ears, unbutton our shirts, massage her wrists away from books. She says that language led to everything we name now, to our apartment, our mismatched breasts, our pillows, our bed. The headboard in our neighbor’s apartment we try to overpower.”

Everywhere Silks – Valya Dudycz Lupescu

I lay down on my stomach and closed my eyes, inhaling the scent of lily of the valley and something deeper, like wine. Wondering if this was Ana’s side of the bed. Wondering if this is what passion smelled like. I rubbed my cheek along the blanket, as if somehow it would share their embraces with me. My fingers searched the pillow for their breath, the secrets of their lips. On the nightstand, Ana’s reading glasses stood beside a single black feather and a rose petal, like relics of a religion into which I was not initiated.