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2017 Fiction Prize judged by Porochista Khakpour

“an animal on stilts reaches the virgin’s tears
and tenderly wipes them.
the virgin cries tres monjitas milk, without coffee.
while the plants don’t speak, they wait in the living room
and discuss death.”

How they part from the air above me,
foaming mouths licking skylines,

eating the bodies I tuck into the clouds.
A tooth mark on the dead dog

“M takes it from him. It sits in her palm, a squat little thing that’s very white at the top but bloody at the root. She tries to remember what the different kinds of teeth are and which one this is. Around them, the other kids are screaming and prancing but M and V are still, staring at the tooth.”

“Everyone was shouting this on the first day of the summer of 1993, so loudly it took us awhile to realize we were shouting it too.”

Your hands like twin moons
to an alien sea.

We spill over.

“In July, the spare room on the second floor of their rental fills with flies. They try getting the landlord to do something—anything—about the flies, but they’ve only been in France a month and can’t remember how to say please. They keep the door to the Fly Room shut tight.”

“my small fingers curl around a cow’s teat. i point
it in the direction of the pail below. i don’t want to hurt”

“I met Ray in the summer of 2014 while I was visiting my father in Greece. My father had moved there six months prior, after his tumultuous divorce from my mother, to finish his novel – a novel I assumed would be all about his failed marriage.”

“A coat check girl with deep pockets sits across from me. She’s excavating the night’s ticket stubs, dropping them on the table next to the double-wicked candle that conflates with the smoke of cigarettes. Everyone is sucking away, a room of great grown puffing children.”

“They get him on the way out of Trader Joe’s, with a bag of groceries in his hand thawing slowly in the summer sun. Some college kid with bad acne and a big smile makes eye contact and says, ‘You look like someone who wants to save a child.'”

“I knew little about Brad when we arranged to meet. Demographics, mostly. He was thirty-seven, an adjunct with abundant graying hair. A childless Libra, he’d never finished his thesis on Jay Gatsby as American masculinity manifest.”

“The little girl, alone in the dark street with only a single box of matches left, takes one out and strikes it across a wall. Spark. A vision of light comes upon her, and standing there before her is another little girl, in a dress made of gold.”

“32. Part I: Cause of Death–My heart is 50% more / likely to fail / than a white woman’s / chances are doctors will fail / to resuscitate me / & the doctor will state / my time of death & write superficial / causes / so I leave this / for you / to recite / when my time comes”

“Love something tender, / chewy, broken in. Translates to ache without border, / expectation blooming to fit the space it’s assigned.”