Quilt-like image. Lydia Morphew and Betsy Morphew. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Dean R. and Darlyene A. Yarian in memory of Nathan Morphew

Jane Kenyon Prize Finalists

“The plum tree decides to give a shit” from the chapbook Miss America by Elena Ramirez-Gorski and “The fourth tuesday in november” from the chapbook Cape Midwest by Navanas Chetsandtikhun are being published through our partnership with the Jane Kenyon Prize. These two manuscripts were finalists for the prize.

The plum tree decides to give a shit

It was planted by
my abuelita’s big brother
who was a drunk but
not a rapist
and the tree stopped bearing fruit
after he was cremated
Passed out and hammered, nobody
knew if he got lost in smoke
or just never woke up.
My abuelita said
between sobs, “He
made his bed, and now he’s
in it.”
So, the tree was mossy and dormant
with red leaves and around
halloween we’d hang
plastic bag ghosts
on its arms. Sad holiday
fruit. It was tired and
barren for ten years.
Ten years of my abuelita
falling out of love and
eyes growing cloudy,
her insides like the kitchen drawer
full of buttons and receipts
rattling around in her ribcage,
restless, lost, and ever-aching.
But then one summer morning
plums dropped and squished
beneath my feet and my sister's,
dripping red syrup
we picked them and brought
them to my abuelita who
cried while smiling and
recited memories
of her brother,
always the last to admit that he cared,
a tequila-soaked grouch
with good intentions.
A miracle.
All summer long
fruit heavy and plump
plummeted down, like
a t-shirt gun full
of sighs followed by “women--
always crying always
worked up
calm down
life’s not so bad.”

Elena Ramirez-Gorski is a Chicana writer from Adrian, Michigan. She is a graduating senior at the University of Michigan studying creative writing and Literature as well as Latina/o Studies. Her work can be found in Gasher Journal, The Acentos Review, and The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism. She also has work forthcoming in Split Lip Magazine and a Twin Peaks-inspired anthology titled These Poems Are Not What They Seem.

The Fourth Thursday in November

I try my hardest not to be in the United States of America. I always try to leave, but sometimes, I don’t manage to. And I find myself on the one day the whole country is closed for business. I walk for hours looking for food, past unlit Jimmy John’s and Domino’s, down the street where it had been impossible to find parking. There’s an implicit wonder in the look everyone gives each other out here. What’s going wrong with you, it asks. And we mosey on with no answer. To the light, like moths, and drink among the other lonely people without family.

Navanas Chetsandtikhun grew up in the suburbs of Thailand. He left home to attend college in North America and now resides in Southeast Michigan. He primarily writes prose poetry, exploring themes of home, friendship, and estrangement through images of everyday life.

Image: Lydia Morphew and Betsy Morphew. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Dean R. and Darlyene A. Yarian in memory of Nathan Morphew