• 2009 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry •

Winners & Finalists 2009

Winners & Finalists for 2009 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “The Fall of Miss Sopa, Eater of Clay” by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder
Second Place: “The Rosebud” by Jason Fisk
Third Place: “A Mother’s Mantra” by Rebecca Schumejda
Fourth Place: “on art and war” by justin.barrett
Fifth Place: “Hayden Carruth Suite” by Glenn W. Cooper

2009 First Place Winner: “The Fall of Miss Sopa, Eater of Clay” by Julie Buffaloe-Yoder

The Fall of Miss Sopa, Eater of Clay

Sopa Abraham Botswana Jonson, b. 1907


Before three men and ten babies
parted her legs with a prayer,
Miss Sopa danced at the shore
with the women of time,
the women who ate clay
and kneeled naked
in autumn water at dawn.

She danced to the beat
of the beacon, bright
in her bones, then gone.
She danced a celebration
of Someday; she danced
in the breath of water,
water the breath for all men.

Makers of clay, eaters of clay,
morphine for the women—
blue-gray and smooth,
cool through her teeth.
Her stomach filled with clay.
She sang for breath
in spite of clay in her throat.

Men came and babies came.
Only the babies stayed
to bite the ends
of her night-numb breasts.
Only a scar remained
on her sweet dark cheek,
shaped like an open mouth
full of fat, white teeth.

She lived in a shack
held together by shadows,
and filled the holes
in her walls with clay.

Clay that cracked
and crumbled on the floor.
Clay swept outside
by a pinestraw broom.
Clay-gummed babies
(Eight was all she had left.).

One got caught
in a chicken-wire fence.
One lost an eye
on Good Friday.
One lost her foot
in a Goodwill shoe
when an axe dropped
from a large, hard hand.

Summers, she worked in quiet dirt,
through shimmers of heat, each year
a baby strapped to her back, rocked
to sleep by the bending; her songs
captured in straw baskets rustled
tobacco leaves like hungry birds.

She taught her daughters
how to walk tall
in thick-skinned mud
where she learned to crawl.

One by one her babies left.
One by one they came back
like cats, proud of the clay
they held in their mouths
but not enough teats
to go around.

Stretchmarks of red spread
across the setting sky
that last fall when Miss Sopa
led the women, hand in hand,
clothed in skin, three miles
to the Promised Shore
beyond sun-doted woods.

They covered their tongues
with a thunderstorm of mud.
In a crash of tambourines,
they washed away the blood
beside a leaf-wet, fallen pine.

A shrine for the sinners,
the makers of clay.

2009 Second Place Winner: “The Rosebud” by Jason Fisk

The Rosebud

I hadn’t seen you
since the day you told
me you were pregnant,
in that café. It was
a September day,
filled with a cold fall rain.
I remember thinking
that I could smell the rain
on people as they passed our table.
There was an unopened
rosebud in a simple
glass vase on our table.
What am I going to do?
you asked
over and over.

Today we stood in the aisle
between the cards
and the candles
at Target, small talk
our armor. I looked
at your empty belly.
You pulled your jacket closed.
“Well, it sure is good to see you.
We’ll have to get together sometime,”
you lied. I wanted to tell you
that I had learned
in a poem
that the Japanese
prefer the rose bud
to the rose blossom,
but how do you fit
that into conversation?




Jason Fisk is a husband, a father of two, and a teacher, living in the suburbs of Chicago. He is the author of a collection of short stories, Hank and Jules; a collection of micro-fiction published by Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, Salt Creek Anthology; a collection of poetry published by Six Gallery Press, the fierce crackle of fragile wings; and two poetry chapbooks published by Alternating Current, The Sagging: Spirits & Skin and Decay. Find him at jasonfisk.com.

2009 Third Place Winner: “A Mother’s Mantra” by Rebecca Schumejda

A Mother’s Mantra

for Liz Graziano


To hell with the dishes, the dust,
the dirt, the diapers, the drudgeries.

I sweep crumbs under carpets,
toss toys haphazardly out of view,
sniff-test the laundry to lighten the load
while dragging my teething daughter
behind me like a soapy mop.

I know I shouldn’t envy the man
who needs not abandon thought
to attend his crying infant, or ailing household;
who does not have to microwave his coffee
three times before taking one sip;
whose wardrobe is not Jackson Pollock-ed
with a colorful assortment of baby food.

But I do.

To hell with the dishes, the dust,
the dirt, the diapers, the drudgeries.

Last Easter eve, with my daughter
somersaulting inside me
like a Tibetan prayer flag releasing its mantra,
I tried to persuade a veteran mother
that our art does not have to suffer
because we are women.
Thank you for allowing me to remain disillusioned
for the last few months of my pregnancy.

Luminaire Award Medallion Designers

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Devin Byrnes and SuA Kang of Hardly Square, for their creativity in designing our annual medallion imprint. Hardly Square is a strategy-, branding-, and design-based boutique located in Baltimore, Maryland, that specializes in graphic design, web design, and eLearning courses. Their invaluable design expertise has made our annual awards come to life. Learn more about our medallion designers.

Transparency for 2009 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

Judging spreadsheets and final reports will be updated here shortly.