Iowa Born

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block
Second Place, October 2010
Judged by Paul Lisicky


To be raised like a pig.
To not come out
until years later
after the dirt wouldn’t.
The smell in my
nostrils to this day.

I keep looking back,
under, sometimes up.
I snuff water. It hurts.
It doesn’t help.

It’s on my fingers,
on my clothes,
in my car. My wife
puts her nose
to my skin.
I’ve smelled it.
It’s me,
the me I know best,
can’t forget.

My fingerprint on air:
ubiquitous, delirious,
musky, amber, repugnant.

If they tracked it
like bloodhounds
sniff out a body,
dying, living, shitting,
it’s left on couches,
pillows, shoes, socks,
on women’s bodies.

A confluence of soul
longing, obsessing
until I can’t stand myself,
take a shower.

I sniff my finger
after rooting in my ear
for a sound, a word
turned to a waxy cartouche.

All the dirty words,
dirty loves, dirty lies,
dirty suspicions
distilled into liquor
in the dark hole
of my head,
in the pigsty
I come from.

It’s lost any meaning.
Smelling the intoxicating
filth one last time,
I cry. I laugh.


There's an inventive syntax in this poem, an attention to the way sentences make unexpected rhythms. And I love the dark humor, the simultaneously seductive and queasy sense of smell on the air: "ubiquitous, delirious." --Paul Lisicky

  • February 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Nebraska, Summer
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Goldback Fern
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Negotiatin’ Wi Demons (For wee Rabbie Burns)
      by John J. Williamson
      PenShells

  • January 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      You Arrive Like Fall, Suddenly
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      Waiting for the Second Coming
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Homeless
      by J.J. Williamson
      Babilu

      Honorable Mention

      When I Go Out and Then Come Back
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum