Back to Adroit Prizes.




Homeschooled, ’17
2016 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors’ List

Your aquarium withers when her fin emerges

Bloody shored and afterbirth: slick

That dishwater embryo

Your dahlia yellow skin too skinny and stitched

Butterfly mouth

You scatter it thorned and brambled and darkening blue

The swim is a marked up reckoning

You come away in petals of fleshmottled bloom

The water will catch at your ankles

While you drink from the belly of an iguana until

You are barrenmouthed and barely floating

The sea took/lapped at the salted skin/mistook me for another fish

It is mine/it is September and the water is cold and scorches against me

It was summer/it was beautiful/the air tasted like grease and thighs

It was mine to lick/I sucked on the teat til it grew sour

It was cold/it was winter/it tasted like wine and stung open my eyes

We are gray and bored and I say let us go swimming/let us get drunk on too clean air

There is a ruler/there is a boy with a goldfish in his skull and he says: Come

I have a tape measure with which to open the ocean

I have a kingdom, an orange blossom and an old prawn crown

And a wisdom tooth from the first baby born without eyes

And I have brought them here today

For this very/this specific/this perfect/this purpose is simple and aquatic

I say praise my spine and my hands and the places I am being slit open

With a pocketknife found inside a softshell crab and the places

Your tongue has not yet severed from my grasp

And my seaweed and my murked up caress

You come to my thighs and I call you a scepter

You want to learn how to sea floor spread

We break beer bottles and call them oysters

Lick out the pulp and the day

I puncture her fin with my teeth and say: Suck

I eat three sea shells and they cut my tongue

I say this is my afterlife/my reckoning/spread me open and you’ll find a pearl

I say this is my hallelujah/open  my mouth and pull out a starfish

It touches our bowed ankles and we say ride

It breaks open a whiskey bottle and we lap at its rough

If I push you down we will submerge

We will become sand, our thighs will be four pillar

I was the first baby born without a navel

A crater for an eye

I bathed in my organs and called it warm

I opened my nostrils up with milk

I ate fire and glass shards and convulsed

I said take me to Seaworld

I said feed me gasoline and watch me convolute

I said manatee in my mouth

I said I licked open the bottom dwellers

There is a boy underneath a submarine

He holds three pearls and an old beer can with which to educate you

On the ways of the underground down-low zebra-striped fish Straddle a large fish

Cut off an organ and whisper your prayer

Wait an hour and one day and a year

Ferment the blood and watch it hiss

Writhe on the back of a sand dollar lay

And say look at me and my moon crater white

Find a girl with wings in her eyes and ask her to hold you down

You will whip/you will be seagrass/you will open your mouth and cerulean bubble

You will touch her until her scales fall open and into your waiting sugar mouth

You will rust

You will become sand

You will chafe at her thighs until she lets you in

You will say I have been waiting

You will pierce your mouth with a hook

You will open your tongue and her tongue

And inside you both keep daggers of abalone and wet

Keep a bird you carved from coral

Keep a platinum dart/a will to forget

Eat the prickle/eat the sand you will purge You will clean/you will singe with a scar

And an off-white chalice

Keep a girl made out of fishing hooks

And a claw

And a shark and a glistening pool table that reminds you of sick

And her punctured sex

It is Monday/it is dark/you say take a bracken and slit me up

It is cold/we are moving our teeth over stone/gnash and hiss

Writhe me open and gnaw, I say

It is Sunday/it is warm/it is Easter

I eat three rubies and try to grow a tail

You say ligament

You say slit

You say open up

You say sharks like blood and calcite fish

In my tongue/in  my opening

I say there is a pearl/and a girl/and another girl/and two hands/and a tail I say I am a sea snake/I can detach/I have no ligaments/I am yours

Underneath his belly we find tin cans, a dart, and a man with a glass for an eye

And we take him

And we eat him up

And we find our ovaries and turn them into monsters/into fish

Put them in a bowl next to a wooden hand and a peg

We have a scepter we made out of tin cans

And a fishing rod and a drowned man’s foot

When I was born I sucked out the sinew of manatees

I said I have a proclivity for salt

I rubbed my teeth over the scales and cried out

I found sea glass and made it my tail

I made a whip out of seaweed and said look at me

I ate a gallon of sand and it was bitter

I opened up the gates of seaworld/I was a shark/I knew how to sink

We found a dead bird and called it mother

We gnashed at the foam and said wait for the hiss

We slit sand dollars up our thighs I found a ship and I found a girl

Her mouth is a chalice

Inside she keeps five dollars and a handful of mollusks






Homeschooled, ’17
2016 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors’ List

My bones are made of gold dust and tapioca starch We’ve

been mapping the gray with our red-worn fingers Printing

out the bloody maps and tacking them to the walls They

came looking for nubs of sheen

They came looking for pearls and loose dresses

Automobiles are really small boats

Gasoline skin, I said burn me like the ocean

They doused me like a wick and I walked into church

When my chest opened the yellow dust covered me like a Sunday

The metal found my belly and I tasted bitter

I will rise, I will be an autumn-haired phoenix

We will open our bodies with silver planets and wait for our ports to go verde

And I will cover my black teeth with petrol roses and fennel seeds


Brynne Rebele-Henry’s fiction, and poetry have appeared in such journals as The Volta, So to Speak, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Fiction International, among other publications. In 2015, she was named the runner-up for the 2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry by judge Tarfia Faizullah. Her debut book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books later this year. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.