New Poetry, Fiction, Essay

8 poems by our runner up, Sarah Karowski

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Two AM; Or Computer Screen Burns

I can’t remember the last time
I blinked—blinking wasn’t
like a bra clasped too tightly,
or a twisted mattress groove,
but an old childhood friend
who just disappeared, and now,
I’ve forgotten their favorite
flavor of lip balm.



For AJ
this shitty poem doesn’t do you justice

how do people stop existing?
one moment you’re making plans to go to a show together,
and the next you’re getting run over by a cop car.

I haven’t seen you in years—fucking years—
did the cop know that?
when he barreled over your body?

I think about you a lot, even before,
you’re always on the other side of nostalgia
because when music brings people together
it’s like a binding of the soul.
we were stitched into each other’s hearts from day one,
a connection forged with sweat and tears
from on top of a venue amp,
and cemented with IHOP pancakes.
see, that’s a bond that years apart could never shake—
but I never bet on
that cop car.

I bought you fish, once, and you cried.
I tasted my first hard lemonade in your kitchen.
we met in a cafeteria, and before we exchanged names,
we danced together, and again years later in your living
room to our favorite childhood bands.
you sold my fiancé two turntables and a microphone,
and we joked about it for thirty minutes.
we saw my favorite musical together—when you
found out no one else wanted to go, you were appalled.

we were never in the right state at the right time,
you and I, always bouncing between lone stars and sunshine—
but fate tempered the chaos just in time for one more show,
or so it seemed, because right when your feet touched land
that cop was there to rip apart your dreams.
your fucking future.

I don’t know what happened that night,
I’m not sure anyone will know, really,
but you ran like hell—you ran like your life depended on it—
and goddamnit, it did.

and now you’re gone.
now you’ll be there on the other side of nostalgia,
and my heart will hurt.
and I’ll have to miss you forever.



It’s dark tonight.

The window’s open, so I feel the chill spilling into my room. I’m
thinking how if I put this cell phone faced down—there will be nothing.
They say seeing is believing, but could I believe I wasn’t on this bed? I
feel the pillow against my head, the scratch of my sheet-less mattress,
the slight warmth from the comforter haphazardly draped over one leg—
reminders of how despite the lack of anything to show for it, I am still
something. I’ve often yearned to experience a sensory deprivation
machine; how empty it would feel, floating in a pool of water, blind,
deaf, being absolutely nothing. A physical enactment of the slow crawl
towards oblivion my heart is on. The darkness of twilight just isn’t



The Big Bang 

I’m in a daze
floating above reality
not alive, not dead,
but somewhere in-between—
this hazy stage of nothing.


they drone around me
peripherals blur indistinguishable,
no awareness of limbs
focus—too hard—on the heaviness
of my eye lids, the drawl
of my breath, this soft
coolness on the back
of my neck—

What did you say?

Are you real? Because nothing
around me feels like anything—

yet we collide
like a feather brushing a cheek,
strangers bumping shoulders,
like an explosion of a star,
light years away from life—
we are bound.

I’m not anything, but you are.
We blend together, our entities,

but—your cheeks, they’ve dulled—
You’ve got my nothing.



Sadness is

my heart,
with faulty valves
and achy atriums
it pumps this
murk through
my veins until
each organ
is weak and frail
it takes my breath
and contorts–
feeding my sorrow
like an old
friend, making
sure there is
enough to eat
now the blood
that courses
through me is
it tells me
I’m better off like
this: convulsing
skipping beats
a hiccupped life

without it
I might just die




is an entire city tucked
away behind the trees—I bet
no one knew it was there, at first.
like an elven kingdom, ransacked
by humanity, now the elves only come
out to play during thunderstorms,
or cool summer breezes.
you can feel the magic in the stillness of the night,
you can see them, sometimes, hiding in the canopies.
they’re crying out for their home
but no one can hear them through the college bars
and loud coffee shops, and vegan-friendly pizza parlors—
but if you stand for a minute in the middle of Meridian Road,
just look up. they’re dancing with cicadas.
they’re singing psalms to the stars.



Solar Eclipse 2017

I should have written a poem about it.
a poem, fiery in its delivery, yet
dark in its intent.

I should have written a poem about balance,
about how even though the sun shines brightly,
it doesn’t shine forever.

How the darkness may come to overshadow
everything that’s great in this world,
but that it only lasts a minute—only a minute.

I should have written about the day meeting the night,
lovers destined to cross paths so seldom,
but the whole world stops when they do.

I should have written about the eclipse—
but the clichés just wouldn’t do,
so instead I looked up.

I just watched.



Where Do You Live?

I live in Rockledge, Florida.
I live on a street that when I tell people the name, they ask
how many black people live next to me,
I still don’t know why it matters.
I live right next to a place people call the projects,
and for some reason that makes them cringe,
but my neighbors have only ever greeted me with a smile.

I live at my job,
I live with the dogs that I teach how to be good boys and girls,
and with the people who don’t listen to a word
I live with the hope I’m saving lives,
and on Wednesdays, I live with the understanding
that we are just one back-up register away
from that balding middle-aged man losing his shit
because the guy behind him was checked out before him—
I live in the stress of customer service.

I live in my car.
I live in the perpetual state of going somewhere,
I live in the in-betweens, I live in the thirty-minute drive times
and the mind-numbing, moral-crippling, mentally-debilitating traffic jams.
I live on I-95, and I live in parking lots,
where I catch my breath between the living I do on the road
and the living I do in stores.

I live in my TV,
I live in the books and the stories I consume
daily. See, I live in an area adjacent to a location,
I live in a prison, I live in a far-off kingdom
hidden behind a wall, I live in a town with friendly
anthropomorphic space-rocks, I live in a basement
smoky with forty-year-old weed—
I live in my head.
I live where logic breaks away, and emotions run rampant,
I live in a constant state of thinking-too-much, and not-good-enough,
And I live in fear that the storm that’s obliterated my insides
might break out and rage against the entire universe—

And sometimes, I live at the beach,
I live in the waves, in the ebbs and flows of the tidal tendencies
I live with the sand between my toes, and in my ears,
and the seaweed in every crack and crevasse of my body,
that I keep for good luck, and for easy breathing.
And I live in the forest, in the shade of the fresh greens,
with mud on my shoes, and clean air in my lungs,
with grasshoppers buzzing in my ears, and ladybugs
stuck in my hair—and I live in the springs that wash
the anxieties out of me, and I live in clichés.
I live in the wonderment of the earth.

See, I live in hope.
I live in humanity, where the uncertainties of society are eased
with the naive thought that we’re good for each other—
humans, I mean—and that we’re good for this earth, too.
I live in optimism because if I didn’t,
I probably wouldn’t be living, at all—
I live in childish bliss.

And I live in love.
I live in love with this world, in love
with the people I’m living with.
I live because this place is important,
and I’ll be damned if I let my mental illness ruin this for me.
I live in love—despite apathy and nihilistic trends—
and despite myself.
I live in spite of myself.
I live because I spent too much time living in oblivion—
too much time grasping for the abyss.
I live to make up for the times I live in my bed.

Where do I live?
I live everywhere, all the time.




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