We are delighted to present this week’s selections from the Brain Mill Press Poetry Month Contest. Wonderful work keeps pouring in via our submission portal, and these pieces by Brittany Adames, Shirley Jones-Luke, Mira Martin-Parker, and Uche Ogbuji stood out.

We’d also like to acknowledge excellent work by poets Holly Mancuso, Aby Macias, and Brittany Adames.

We hope you’ll enjoy these editors’ picks as much as we did.

A Young Girl Pares Fruit

by Brittany Adames


Once, you told me plums tasted like the papaya seeds
your father spit into your mouth when you were young—
you wondered if saliva could retain memory like dissolved
particles in water. If so, then maybe that is why you refuse
to say his name. Then, you said you wanted your body to dilute.
I asked why. You did not answer. When we were five, we picked
at the fat of our stomachs and let insects suck our bone until
our mothers scrambled in with bared teeth. We like to joke about that.
One night, I prayed to Mary that our mouths would become one and part only
when the wind cracks our lips. Once, when we were playing outside, I wrenched a
clump of weeds from the damp earth and you told me there is no such thing as skin.
The next morning, your calves greased from the July heat, you lace your sneakers
and climb up twenty-two flights of stairs. You expand your arms for an embrace
but collect absence instead. You notice my cacao-colored eyes peering from a car window.
A quick glance to the moving truck behind us. I wonder if brick crammed into your throat
like a papaya seed. If you hugged anyone ever again after. If you hastily shut doors
before your mouth. If you ever circled an uncombed curl around the ridges of your
index finger and thought, This is my favorite melody. Once, I dipped my tongue
in bathwater to wither away the memory of what our language does not allow us
to carry—like how we see flesh and our mothers see snake-scaled nails.
Perhaps God will forgive me now, I thought.
After, I ate a plum and tasted your name. I have not said it since.

About Brittany Adames

About Brittany

Brittany Adames is an eighteen-year-old Dominican-American writer. Her work has been previously published in CALAMITY Magazine, Bombus Press, Rumble Fish Quarterly, TRACK//FOUR, and Rust+Moth, among others. She is pursuing a major in creative writing at Emerson College and serves as the poetry editor for Ascend Magazine and prose reader for The Blueshift Journal. She has been regionally and nationally recognized by the Scholastic Writing Awards.

You Gotta Let It Hit the Skin

by Shirley Jones-Luke


And welcome the goosebumps. As they rise on your flesh. Pushing up      into the air       reaching
bending. Moving like waves of tall brown grass    as a crater forms on your arm.     or your leg.     or
your spine.       Sending shockwaves of shivers.    that make you stop.    Frozen in the thought of
surprise.    or pain.    Or both.    You don’t know whether to be angry or thrilled.     You just know that
the contact has made you realize that you exist.         You’re real.         You’re alive.

About Shirley Jones-Luke

About Shirley

Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer of color. Ms. Luke lives in Boston, Mass. She has an MA from UMass Boston and an MFA from Emerson College. Her work mixes poetry with memoir. Shirley was a Poetry Fellow at the 2017 Watering Hole Poetry Retreat. She will be attending VONA (Voices of Our Nation) in June 2018.

Like a Poor Girl

by Mira Martin-Parker


I wear my jewelry like a poor girl—large and real. I wear my clothes like a poor
girl—cleaned and ironed. My whites are always whiter that white and I’m always
de-linting myself when I wear black. There’s not a spec of dirt or fuzz on my
sweaters. Like a poor girl, I am self-conscious at formal tables. I lose my tongue. I
don’t order beer. Like a poor girl I read Dostoyevsky on the train. Because, like a
poor girl, I have over educated myself. I am like a poor girl when I get my paycheck. I
spend it all at once, down to my last ten dollars. I cannot save a thing. For, like a poor
girl there are so many things I need, like a cashmere coat, tailor-made in North
Beach, with silk lining and antique buttons. And it’s impossible for me to imagine
going without wine from the wine shop, fresh baked bread, and organic produce,
since like a poor girl, I must have the best of everything. My desk at work is always
clean, my bathroom at home is spotless—I bleach each mold spot when it first
appears. Like a poor girl, I live in the best city, in a lovely neighborhood, in a darling
apartment. But in spite of all that I do, like a poor girl, nothing works, and it’s always
apparent right away to everyone that I am a poor girl, and like the poor girl that I am
I can’t help looking into the windows of Boulevard restaurant as I pass by on my
lunch break, even though I tell myself that there’s nothing to look at inside but white
people eating delicate portions of salmon and tossed greens and drinking glasses of
wine. Still, I can’t help but look in at them—especially the men—because deep
inside I will always be, just like a poor girl.

About Mira Martin-Parker

About Mira

Mira Martin-Parker earned an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including the Istanbul Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Mythium, and Zyzzyva. Her collection of short stories, The Carpet Merchant’s Daughter, won the 2013 Five [Quarterly] e-chapbook competition.

Oyinbo Banana

by Uche Ogbuji


Who said they brought Magilla from Congo bush?
Na lie! Saint Lumumba himself showed me
His New York City stomping grounds. That Toby
Couldn’t see for Kunta Kinte, though
He made hay on claiming President Nonesuch
For Kenya. Oh no, this ape of the John Doe
Was fabbed in US of A. Republics
Are King Kong of their combined simian subjects;
This one’s about to eat its Jump Jim Crow.


The 45 speed of 419 scheme
Plays like this:


                                   Oh you noble poor, rejects
From the Merkin Dreamliner, we’re on your team.


Just shave an edge more from your pennies our way
And we’ll guarantee a lifetime of C.R.E.A.M.
Our magic hat is bringing your jobs back, Bae!


Just need a deposit to get things rolling:
Health care, welfare, public housing, let’s just say
We’ll trade imploded tax code when we come polling
Won’t hurt a bit! Trust us, our fathers made
Grand puba, We keep the Illuminati
Skeleton key in hock at the lodges, see!


Next to Brazzaville diamonds, to kryptonite
For China when we throw cash at the Navy
And best believe we’ll serve Mexico right
From the get-go. Which brings us to that mob,
The refugees and immigrants here to fight
You good white people for each and every job.


We got your back, sending them all the fuck back,
Skewer those fools on their own shish-kebab
Our motto: build a wall; hug a smokestack, Jack!


Stand back from flood of green MAGAmillions
The whiteman economy back in black.


It lives on in breathtaking resilience,
Lure of big men, with their Beemer Benzes,
Their WAGs spa-side touching up their brazilians.


An aspiring eye shutters out all offenses,
It winks at junkets to Merry Lagos,
Watering down its shock at such expenses.


But should they even think to dump the Negus
Problem is, what you vote ain’t what you get;
Our ballot box is stuffed—old Cold War threat
Cyber-wise realized to come back and break us—
Active Measures, comrade. This candidate
Is echt Manchu, mind you, he knows no nyet.


He’ll yell: Look! Here comes a caliphate,
Then auction off our rivers and our shale.
Think we won’t deal to return the Kodiak State?
Magilla’s taken the shop: we’re all on sale.

About Uche Ogbuji

About Uche

Uche Ogbuji, more properly Úchèńnà Ogbújí, was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived in Egypt, England, and elsewhere before settling near Boulder, Colorado. A computer engineer and entrepreneur by trade, his poetry chapbook, Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press) is a Colorado Book Award Winner and a Westword Award Winner (“Best Environmental Poetry”). His poems, published worldwide, fuse Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop. He co-hosts the Poetry Voice podcast and featured in the Best New African Poets anthology.

On Twitter as @uogbuji.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!