October Project Poetry Contest Honorable Mention: The Agency of Our Hearts

OP poetry laurel honorable mention


for Claudia


When we are together, our hearts skip a collective beat, joined and ready.

The world clocks another tick; and we follow, obeying time and destiny.

We pick those ticks of time from our teeth, like latent orts

from some recent, happy repast; some delectable feast of love.

Here’s what is true: Time is a trickster.  His clock speeds as we age and dream,

and we embrace some remembered supple dawn of youth and fervor.

 He, Time, lurches forward as youth diminishes.

Today’s year is but a glimpse, a gossamer whiff in imagined time’s passing,

shooting past us as we contemplate the swiftly coming end.

In this odd and vexing display of time’s deception, my weak heart,

 aligned with your solid, happy, yearning, youthful ticker,

seeks some agency, perhaps in some odd way to restore a happy, smiling youth,

bereft of fears of this falling away of living,

living that is just and true and crawling with hope toward that final, joyful rave.

This is the agency of our hearts; this is the melding of our spirits;

this is the slipknot of our souls. We bear it now, knowing its weight,

its loft, its mystery and its victory.

By Stephen Aechternacht

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Winner of the October Project Poetry Contest

OP poetry laurel

To My Unborn Boy

by Peter M. Gordon


I picture you now and then

floating in heaven, nose pressed

to the bottom of a cloud watching

the rest of us drive to concerts, games,


school plays, discussing our day

around the kitchen table. Your chair

under the end of the table, alone.

Your mother and I meant to make you,


but your third brother was a whirlwind.

We put you off for a while, and finally

decided it was best for everyone here

to close that door leading to your life.


I like to think you don’t mind much.

You’ve never lived in this world, so

don’t know pain, desire, or joy.

I hope you know when I wave to clouds


today I am waving to you. When we meet

in that place where life always works out

the way we planned we’ll have much to say.

I still wonder what you would have become.


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Air for the End of April


Air for the End of April


The flowers spray color from the field

Where half the world will have to

Yield to spring


Everything is bursting

Everything is back to the first thing


The thing we almost forgot


Life wants to move full throttle

To explode the bottle

Where the firecracker has been lit


We’re just waiting for it

Waiting for the big bang


The bees buzz music in the air

Where you lie with your long hair

Flowing out into the new grass


Everything is singing

Everything is backto the first thing


The thing we almost let go


Life wants to flood the river

To make us all shiver

With desire and delight


We’re just waiting for it

Waiting to expand here


With the light



By Julie Flanders

Photo by Amy Treasure






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The Dress Has A Note On It

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The Dress Has a Note On It


As you feel the stun of the bright day

Through the hospital window

You look past the tubes and plastic

And feel all the ways your heart has become

Elastic with fear

Electric with the currency

Of what is becoming clear

You are saying goodbye to her


And yet it is all a blur

All the time, all the ways, all the memories

She will confer to us


She does not want us to worry or fuss

Or think of other chances she could have

There is nothing left to reach for

Nothing left to grab or seize

Can I go now, she asks



Did you ask the right questions

Is it too late for better answers

Is this the same woman

Who wanted to be one of the Ziegfeld dancers

Or a Taylor, as in Elizabeth


Sometimes you look into her eyes

And see your own failure or successes

You try to feel it

And she blesses you with jokes

At her own expense


And so one of life’s last events drudges by

This will be the last day to occupy

The last dawn, the final curtain

As she gives permission to skip the ending

To be certain to leave at the intermission


I always like to read the last page of a book first

I like to know what will happen

The best of it, or more importantly, the worst

We all know what will happen here

We know our fatal flaw


It’s fatal


Beginning from the moment we are pre-natal

Waiting to arrive

We know there is no way we will go on

No way we will survive

The playground of this dream


I could scream


The window frames the sunshine in a weird way

Making the brightness somehow false

Ugly, gray

Instead I look at you

I look at her

I look away


There is nowhere to go but home

And so we stay

Knowing that platitudes are hollow

We laugh instead

You touch her shoulder

I stroke her head

She will be so happy to leave that bed

For better sleep


There are better memories

We will keep forever

Or at least until we follow her



By Julie Flanders

Photo by Daan Stevens






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Still Life

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Still Life


The picture is upside down

Framed by wood, not by magic

Abstract now, comic


As mortal as the hand that paints

The curtain where the woman faints

Reveals the witness

To the border that decides perception

And reality


Strokes of color, feints of light

The sleight of eye and heart and mind

Creates illusions of the human kind

Stepping out from behind by stepping in

You step into a silence you imagine filling you

Until you do, it does


You stay for now

You cannot hold it somehow

The early sketches kill you with their noises of regret

As the palette forms itself

From all the sorrows that the heart never forgets


Forget it

Let the cacophony ensue

Let the picture change to a transparency

Inside of you

Blank, silent, empty canvasses


Please be still now

Spill, fall, expand, melt

Out of reality

You were never there anyway

The silence still waits for you

What will you say

When the world shouts stay still



By Julie Flanders

Photo by Samuel Zeller






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When I Do

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When I Do


Mor-Mor warmed up the pie

And served it à la mode

I can still smell it now

And the coffee

That overflowed the white, small cup

When she poured the cream in


The past is exactly as it seems

But it keeps changing in my mind

Mostly I see it less

And less clearly

Or I am blinder to what it always was

Because I am at a loss here

But there is no need to fear

For you are still

The most ancient part of me


Sometimes I think

About the changes we made in our kitchen

Over time

The summer we painted all the walls

A terrible blend of orange and lime

You always loved bright colors

Unlike your mother

Who loved plain and simple

White and blue

You loved a mess

She preferred a tidy, antiseptic feel


I love a hotel room

Because there’s nothing there

To steal

Though sometimes I wish I could

At least

Steal back my younger heart

Where I cared about music

Dance, people, art

Now I search the present

Look toward the future

And mine the past for what I can use

To soothe me

The past is sutured to me

With stitches I can’t remove

Without opening scars

That are hardly visible

Perfectly smooth


I wish I hadn’t thought of you

This morning

The day already turned itself around

And I can feel the trenchant warning

Of the wave that comes to drown me

In your absence


By Julie Flanders

Photo by Brendon Thompson






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Pink Noise

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Pink Noise


I don’t know why I hurt myself

Sometimes it just seems like the best solution

A way to find something new

Or let go of something old

When I’m so sorry I ever told you

What wasn’t even the truth


Sometimes the subject is the object

And I can’t tell the difference trying

Even if I think I occupy the same space

There’s nothing there

Not a trace of something I forgot to fear

It’s too late to keep it from coming near

It’s already inside me


I don’t know why you betray yourself

Sometimes it looks like you have no option

Like you have no better way to stop

Plummeting from the top of the world

Back to where you think you belong


Not sure if it’s weakness

Or just something far too strong to say no to

That terrible urge that makes you stop

And then go to the darkest place

There’s nothing there except what you’ve erased


This is not what I thought it was

But it doesn’t matter because

There are so many better ways to do this

Once you hold me

We’ll go all the way through this together


And that will be nothing like before

The end of the war and the start of the century

Both of us as we are meant to be

Our past slipping even further away

Into the pink noise behind us

Somewhere safe



By Julie Flanders

Photo by Noah Buscher






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