TOFU INK ARTS PRESS 2022 POETRY AWARD WINNER
IN HONOR OF THEATER VISIONARY REZA ABDOH
After hundreds of submissions this year, it is with great love and a humble'd heart to honor Theatre Visionary Reza Abdoh with the second Poetry Prize for Tofu Ink Arts Press going to Kimberly Jae with the profound possibilities offered in her words for: Domestic Violence Respectability Politics. Honorary mentions and runner up goes to: Trevor Bashaw for SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT & Shams Alkamil The People of Hawaa (Eve). All the work will be featured in our Tofu Ink Arts Press: Volume 6 in 2023. $300 will be awarded to Kimberly Jae. Please see the poems and brief bios below.
Kimberly Jae is an award-winning, disabled and published Slam Poet ranking in the top 30 slam poets in the world in 2018. Undaunted, she has since won fellowships, competitions and multiple publications.
Trevor Bashaw is an interdisciplinary artist and poet whose work investigates the relationships between queerness, ecology, memory, and the artifice of representation. They graduated from the University of Kansas and are now living in Kansas City.
Shams Alkamil believes in holding room for Black neurodivergents. In 2022, she published, “West 24th Street” and was published at Writer Con. “The People of Hawaa (Eve)”, reflects the irony of oppressive forces believing they are superior.
Cast: SPEAKER, YOU* *these things are replaceable
Setting: ASTRAL PLANE
Speaker: Here is some mountain.
You are to be sacrificed.
Little linen briefs cinched up over hip-bones.White tennis shoes pummel a warm quagmire, splash pummel red pumice, brown pumice, black sands sparkle with quartz and sulfur. Around you green sticky plants’ grains blossom like sandpaper. Umbrella tendrils of ferns tangle together. You build a shrine, a circle of volcanic stone. Exalted: a plastic water bottle! That which is its own essence. The bloody turquoise of the mineral fact of things. You worship and then dig. Wind mists cloud through gnarled bark. Cedar quakes and the lilies bend at the knee, you dig while black white red and brown pheasants circle you, quick eyes clucking, your hands in the ground. You will dig until the bone is revealed on the fingers, until lava is reached, until it all caves in again. God remains silently tucked away in his own heaven.
You read, or perhaps hear, your fate uttered by Speaker. You reply:
You: “ chef boyardee
let me tell you what
ill open my legs for you
and if that is not enough
you can slit me open and
put your hands inside my guts
drink my hemoglobin
become my phagic hemorrhage
you can wash me with salt iodine and diet pepsi ”
“ but my raviolis will still be cooked inside.
and they look like chicken carbonara ”
Speaker: In your last moments, you breathe out an explication on
Queerness. It is all you can do.
You: Queerness is… Queerness is… Queerness is …
Speaker: You die and they move on.
But – first they shoot you with a camera. Snap a little picture. Just before you die, they trap your soul forever inside a little square. They carefully crop the edges of the photograph so they can remember the moment how it ought to be remembered, that is not how it was. They will relive your death, re-use your death over and over. When they see the picture they hear your sweet spectacular voice singing to be returned to your paradise. They reminisce, and it brings a little smile to their lips. :) A notification pops up on your cell phone. God has texted you, you are unable to read the message (being dead).
Speaker: Go back to sleep and dream again.
You were driving in your car through the rain, you were driving your lover home. You were distracted, too stoned to see, through the windshield, tenements and cemeteries. Distracted by love, you navigated chaos: narrow roads, buses and bikes weaving together in exhaust. Temporal tapestry, pastiche of sheet metals, orange paint and rust. Curly hair and a lithe jaw. Was this the city of your lover? This whole place had been sacrificed to a sweet saint. You both were coming back from McDonald’s. The sauce was sticky. He was your lover. From the vents, a sickening smell of ylang-ylang and french fries. Coming back from McDonald’s there was a song on the radio. You remember it:
“Take off the skin of yesterday,
Take off the skin of yesterday
I do not know how to fall.
Trees die standing up.
Take off the skin of yesterday
I do not know how to make myself fall.
Take off my skin with flashes
Take my mouth out of the honey
Take off the skin of yesterday
A shadow of flashes on your skin
Without you I know nothing.”
Are you dreaming again?
You were crying in my arms. I was kissing you on the head and the neck, on your shoulders and your collar saying it’s okay, I love you, it’s okay, I love you, it’s going to be okay. But all you could think of was death. You wore jewelry, soft greys, sparkling coral geodes. I felt such love for you. But you were messing with the dead. You were contacting her from beyond the grave and trying to speak for her somehow. You spoke of an assault and how she was never the same after she got back from Israel. She is in paradise now. Would you feel better? If I went back to paradise. If I took her skin and gave it to someone else, so someone could walk around in her skin again. As if she came back to life, came back from paradise. For you. So it was. A violent catharsis: something strutting around in her skin. And, walking down the street, you saw her. For a second, you thought you saw her. Again. But you saw it wasn’t her. You could see her skin but could see right through it. You did not see her in there so you screamed and screamed and said no no no no no come back you are not gone from me. Again.
You were denying yourself reality.
I said I was sorry and I sang you a song.
Wow I wanna make you
Poison I vow
Keeps us alive You pray
I love you so Still love:
I let you go never fixed
Do you remember? Love hurts
Do you remember? It swallows home
Life time Insect hums
Small bombs Yellow bugs
Lion songs Little ants that crawl
Buttercup / syrup cup
Where has all my money gone Put your ass against the wall
How have I mis(t)read
All I know is
You’re the one that’s trapped inside my head
 Arca, Piel [translated from the spanish]
The People of Hawaa (Eve)
there is a unique shame in contorting
my two-toned mouth into saying, Eve.
a shame [my shame] that sits on a bar stool next to
sexism, white feminism, & all the
i am jealous of their seamless mouths,
bellowing and howling. so easily
the tables turn—yet, i am still the animalistic nigger.
translating Eve into my native tongue
is enough for the -isms to shriek.
it is evolution—years of
contorting has strengthened
my people’s telepathy.
the -isms may have smooth mouths,
but so are their brains.
the bar tv shrieks/howls/bellows,
the zoo exhibit is live.
sexism courts racism,
by sliding a vodka tonic across the counter.
racism grips the high glass with red, stilettoed nails;
glass almost making its way to her one-toned mouth…
but not before she spews the tonic into
[my] shame’s mouth.
at the sight, sexism shifts against the wooden stool;
sexism is goatish, of course.
his little -ism is growing harder.
with sult in his voice, he tells racism—let us watch the animalistic niggers
stare vacantly at one another.