The Prize (and other poems)

The Prize

When I became a single woman,
the men swarmed all around me.
It seemed the more I was,
the more they multiplied
with their prophecies,
and their payments, and their wagging,
tepid tongues.
Their attention, it angered me.
How they told me not to
worry. How they told me
they’d be back.
The worst ones
I let do whatever they want.
My body—a glass
or liquid—
submitting to their heat.
(I have loved
three men in my life.
I have held one
up to the light.)


Shot in the dark,
out like an arrow:
I pull my underwear
down, while standing up.
I keep my mouth shut,
except when you’re in it.
Shock of skin like an animal
going frantic, fast.
I fuck with you, and love
shakes its salt
lick into me.
Eyes level, hackles raised.
Pink on the inside,
pink on the inside,
tell me I’m not
someone’s daughter you’d praise.

Once You’ve Left

October light pierces possibility
right out of the air. Tree trunks
unmoved as a haunting. Birds darken
with worry in a crushing
autumn wind, and a barge cleaves
the Mississippi, smooth as repetition
with no difference. Everything hushes
before the worst of it—
how a doctor tells you to relax
before administering pain.
Keep my heart, you can’t cure it. Tonight,
I’ll lie down with the ear of another.
At every hour
the river wheels and eddies.
Promise me
the song always comes back.

In Spite Of

and when you told me you loved
your wife
it didn’t matter
and when you sent for me
in another state
it didn’t matter
and when you told me to leave
the next morning
it didn’t matter
and when you said you wouldn’t touch me
(and you touched me)
it didn’t matter
and when I wept, swore,
had other men (again and again)
it didn’t matter
and when I finally made haste
like a heroine
it didn’t matter
I did it all
(and then some)
to speak achingly
and to live.

Still Life with Citrus In February

This morning I look at the wedding
ring I never wore, the lemons limning
the wooden bowl, furred
white from age and heat.
There is snow again. There is morning
again. There is the predictable
deer print tracking
the perimeter around the house.
Last year I let a love go,
then lost another.
What this is
it is, no matter
where you edge.
There is sun again.
There is luck again.
Relief across a blameless ground,
a bright light,
no longer begging.


  • Hannah Bonner's poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Asheville Poetry Review, Pigeon Pages, Rattle, Schlag, So to Speak, The Hopkins Review, The North Carolina Literary Review, The Pinch Journal, The Vassar Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, TriQuarterly, and Two Peach. She is a creative nonfiction MFA candidate at the University of Iowa.

  • Still images from Drunken Angel (醉いどれ天使, Yoidore Tenshi), a 1948 film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is notable for being the first of sixteen film collaborations between director Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune.