Rest & Recuperation, 1970
Ninety days before the beach,
Honey Peach Tomato started leg lifts
and vinyl thighs. She bought boxes of blondness,
a stiff coil to press between her palms for bikini pecs,
a suitcase. She knew herself gorgeous.
In this fierce contest, Angel Babe Fox would outfox
fried chicken and jasmine, out-dazzle
hula and TV, deny Victor Charlie and night sweats.
Dripping safety, oozing peril, Pumpkin Sugar Mama
marched like a warrior heading for battle.
Training for R&R was catnip for Kitten Doll Bunny,
her fingers ready to loosen boots black and spit-shiny—
toes itching for action, for a cradle of sand.
Limited to twenty lines, the poems in this category delivered memorable imagery and resonant meaning with great economy of language. The very best of them also gave the reader the gift of surprise—a quality shared by the diverse assortment of poems honored here.
The winning poem, “Rest & Recuperation, 1970” is dense, allusive, initially disorienting—a style ideally matched to its subject matter, the complex ways that the needs of the Vietnamese and the Americans were served at a wartime R&R center. The final two lines are devastating.
Keli Osborn lives and writes in Eugene, Oregon, where she works with community organizations. Her poems appear in Allegro, San Pedro River Review, and Timberline Review, and in several anthologies including Nasty Women Poets and The Book of Donuts.