Tuesday, 8 August 2017

In honor of yesterday's full moon, the tenth Moon Prize* goes to Ellen LaFleche's moving poem "After"—backdating to the full moon of June 9, 2017.


by Ellen LaFleche

I unwrap a slab of soap scented with honey and milk
after I dip the washcloth in water so hot
it could make a living person shiver
as if the steam that scalds my palms
could unstiffen your limbs, could re-warm your bones,
could make you sit up in bed with the biblical grace of the risen

after I wash your eyelids, your lips, your temples,
after I dip my finger in the small font at the end of your spine
after I bathe you between your thighs
as if you could feel soap suds bursting against your glans
after I kneel by your bed
and dry your feet with my hair

I pick up the phone
and make the calls.

* * * * *

Ellen LaFleche is the author of three chapbooks: Workers' Rites (Providence Athenaeum), Beatrice (Tiger's Eye Press) and Ovarian (Dallas Poets Community Press.)  She won the Tor House Poetry Prize, the New Millennium Poetry Prize, the Hunger Mountain Prize, and the Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Prize.  She is an assistant judge for the North Street Book Prize and a freelance editor.  She is currently finishing a manuscript tentatively titled Walking into Lightning with a Metal Urn in My Hands, a collection of poems following the death of her husband to ALS.  "After" is part of this manuscript.

* The Moon Prize ($91) is awarded once a month on the full moon for a story or poem posted in Writing In A Woman's Voice during the moon cycle period preceding a full moon. I don't want this to be competition. I simply want to share your voices. And then I want to pick one voice during a moon cycle for the prize. I fund this with 10% of my personal modest income. I wish I could pay for each and every poem or story, but I am not that rich. (Yet.) For a while I will run two months behind with this prize—eventually I expect to catch up to the current month.

Why 91? 91 is a mystical number for me. It is 7 times 13. 13 is my favorite number. (7 isn't half bad either.) There are 13 moons in a year. I call 13 my feminist number, reasoning that anything that was declared unlucky in a patriarchal world has to be mystically excellent. Then there are 4 times 91 days in a year (plus one day, or two days in leap years), so approximately 91 days each season. In some Mayan temples there are or were 91 steps on each of four sides. Anyway, that's where the number 91 comes from, not to mention that it's in the approximate neighborhood of 100.

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