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Stephanie Ellen Siler Memorial Prize Winner

Cassie Premo Steele

Honorable Mentions:

Vivian Bikulege

When They Ask Me What I Do All Day

My breath. Your breath. Two waves.

Separate shores. One ocean. Sunrise.


Things I hear in the silence.


That woman. Her children. Dead bodies.

Photo on the front page. Peace. Peace. Peace.


What I pray about when I am walking.


A seat. My dog next to me.

A sign saying: You are ok, you will be ok.


What I want when I am spinning.


One word. Another word. Keep going.

Knowing this gift came to me alone.


What I know when I am writing.


Time. rejection. Endlessly trying.

Not getting there before I die.


What I fear when I am doubting.


One flower. Spring breeze. A zephyr.

Birds singing. Your vows to me.

What I love when I am loving.


A hallway light. Open doors. Enough to eat.

Not just for me. For everybody.


What I dream when I am dreaming.


I matter. You matter. We matter.

Separate bodies. One earth. Sunset.


What I believe when I am sleeping.

Judge’s Comment:

The poem had me from the title.  I liked the mixture of general images, such as the waves and the newspapers the poet speaks about at the start, and the personal images later in the poem, a seat and the poet’s dog for example.  This drew me into the poem and helped establish a personal connection between me and the poet.  I also like the way the poet  structured the poem around a series of similar questions.

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