Seventeen, Before the First Time

by Ange Law
Second Place, July 2008
Judged by Tony Barnstone

Shoulder pout like Harlow.
Inciting reaction,
mouth a buzz full of bees.
She slams a mirror door,
glass splinters- catch tongue.
Wonders what it’s like to slash your wrists
flapper style.
Conjures scarysexy to suck
with heretic teeth.
In the garden, genuflects to the god of lipstick,
makes her mouth arterial,
backhanding red across the intrusive flowers.
Stalks through grass three foot high
desperate for knowledge of passion.
Lying in it,
grasps handfuls of green,
then it’s…
his hair a catch kiss of curls,
his eyes dark as dejected pews on Sunday.
In a furnace face blast,
she orgasms spontaneously,
lets go laughing…laughing.
Scrapes shiny off the sun,
smears her body
with forty- eight shades of golden.

Usually, I find poems that use this particular bag of tricks are unsuccessful. Portmanteau words like "scarysexy" are thirty years out of date now, the substitution of parts of speech for each other is an e.e. cummings trick that's hard to imitate well, and the artificial and extreme compression that leads to a dropping of the personal pronouns seems to reek of the MFA workshop poem. So, why on earth does this poem work so well? It has a utter psychic wildness to it, a deep, archetypal vocabulary that tickles the unconscious with a knife, a relentless sexual pace, and gorgeous sounds. Maybe that's why? I love the fact that the poet has made these old, warped arrows shoot true. --Tony Barnstone