2022 Winning Poem – Every Broken Thing by David Sullivan

I’ve begun to love brokenness, not

the elegant lightning of gold a Japanese

potter uses to mend a bowl, not the soft glow

after a year in recovery, but the thrown

piston rod that ground us to a halt by the tiles

of Utah salt, the searing recriminations

that tumble with the dryer at the end

of my first marriage, the blood I wipe

from his eyes as my older brother

drives to the hospital (both of us stoned,

leery of the cops), our mother’s spiked

and withering unforgiveness, the spine

of the cat twisted up and rising behind

the car that struck it, the balled fist

I shook before my father’s face—stuff

that can’t be prettified or taken back,

the tarry stink of it before it congeals.

Please flood my senses, god. Thrust 

the blood cloth into my hands so I

can mash in salt, dunk it in cold water.

Let my bipolar friend shake in my arms. 

Let me tend to the homeless man steaming 

on the city grate. I’ll do my best to love, love 

without any lesson waiting in the wings.

Santa Cruz poet laureate David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet, and Black Ice. Most recently, he won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing, and published Black Butterflies Over Baghdad with Word Works Books. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, lives in Santa Cruz with his family, and his website is: https://dasulliv1.wixsite.com/website-1.