“A Small Obsession,” a poem by Stephen Ackerman in upstreet number five, has been chosen to appear in Best New Poets, an annual anthology of poems from emerging writers. The 2010 editor is Claudia Emerson, who selected 50 poems from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs, and an open internet competition.
“A Small Obsession” was nominated for the anthology by upstreet Poetry Editor Jessica Greenbaum and Editor/Publisher Vivian Dorsel. Previous nominations of Steve Ackerman’s poems for Best New Poets were for “Magic Lantern” in upstreet number three and “How to Touch a Woman” in upstreet number four. All three poems, and “Strange How Trains” in upstreet number two, were also nominated for Pushcart Prizes.
Steve’s poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Boulevard, Columbia Review, Lana Turner, Mudfish, Partisan Review, Ploughshares, Salamander, and Seneca Review. He holds a BA from Columbia University, an MA from Johns Hopkins and a JD from Boston University School of Law. An attorney since 1989 in the Legal Counsel Division of the New York City Law Department, he lives in Beekman, NY, with his wife, Laurie, and their sons, Nick and Will.
upstreet is delighted to congratulate Steve. Here is his winning poem:
A Small Obsession
He could ride a bicycle backwards and when he did
“He thought he was the cat’s meow,” his wife said.
Thank you for my eyes, thank you for opening my eyes.
Thank you for my idyllic childhood, long summer days
Outdoors and food in the kitchen, your glove oiled
To dark chocolate, it folds like a book, old, soft leather first baseman’s
Mitt, foundered on a reef of grief when you died,
One extra large sob at your wake and several years
Of intermittent self-pity of which I am proud.
Thank you for adultery, it makes life vivid as when
I kicked the grill in the garage and one triangular leg
Impaled the sheet rock and there hung, waiting
For summer, for skewed suburban summer, for skewered
Idyllic summer. Oh, thank you for my eyes! Which weep,
Which are hazel like your wife’s eyes, which wear glasses
To read the fine print, which is where beauty is, in the text
And in the footnotes, in the woven sheets with the high
Thread count, in a firm handshake (for which I must thank you).
They are a foreign race to me, who shake hands diffidently.
Were their fathers not Marines? Did they have idyllic childhoods
With long summer days and fathers who worked
And came home from work and played catch and read
The paper, days so long the mail was delivered twice
And so long ago that actual letters arrived, morning and
Afternoon, punctuated by the dash of lunch
On the run, screen door slapping the frame.
You introduced the world to me, in all its
Famous complexity, but only after providing
The simplicity of long summer days,
Deep woods, slow currents, open fields, cobalt clouds.
This poem is a coffin, and a resurrection.
To mourn the dead is not a small obsession.