2018 Fall Contest, Theme – Harvest, 3rd Place Winner

Living Room, Circa 1965
by Colette Jonopulos

Gold drapes laced with nicotine. Mother
says smoking keeps her hands busy. Father
knocks the burning end of his cigarette
into the ashtray I made in school. Clay
animal head and tail, hollowed-out
body filled with spent ashes.

Doorbell rings, all our sins are gathered
and stored in the kitchen. Two men enter
our world in matching uniforms of white
shirts and black ties, one holds the Book of
Mormon in his perfectly manicured hands.
This is the eleventh hour he tells us, we
are harvesting God’s elect.

Our family is woven into a history of
ancestors named Young and Smith,
guilt and gratitude indecipherable. We
are temporarily whitewashed. Mother is
church librarian. I am her obedient
shadow. Brother stops psychoanalyzing.
Father is quiet among the gods.

The men leave us with our stitched-on
smiles. Mother closes the drapes. Scent
of tobacco crawls through the room.
Ashtrays and coffee cups return to
their places of honor. We return to our
separate solitudes, our everyday sins.

Judge’s comments
Comparing prose writers to poems was not my intent, but once begun: Each reading of “Living Room, Circa 1965” left me with the same feeling I get from reading Raymond Carver, “Scent of tobacco crawls through the room.” Icy and precise language. And there is Edward Hopper in the corner painting this scene.
—Michael Hanner

Colette Jonopulos writes and edits in Denver, Colorado. She hikes in the Rocky Mountains and enjoys wandering through the Western United States. She has previously published two nonfiction books, as well as three chapbooks. Her poetry has appeared in Contemporary Haibun Online, Alimentum, PMS, Clackamas Literary Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Bellingham Review, North Coast Squid, and Ekphrasis. She is co-owner of Tiger’s Eye Press, and edits and publishes the eight-poem Infinities chapbook series.

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