Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry 2011 Winner: Roberto F. Santiago

To begin, Shut. Up. I know we are a quarter of the way into 2012, but due to the recession and personal poverty, I decided to postpone the announcement of the 2011 Carey Prize until I could actually afford to pay the winner the prize amount.

For months, I have been sitting on the knowledge of the winner of the prize. On Christmas Day 2011, I emailed Roberto F. Santiago (actually, to be fair, I responded to an email from him), letting him know that he had been selected as the second recipient, after inaugural winner Saymoukda Vongsay, of the Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word poetry.

I established this prize in 2010 as a way to honor and remember my amazing grandfather. My grandfather was a working class mixed race man from Northern Minnesota, a father of eight, and a loving husband. When the universe handed him an even more mixed race, "theatrical," eventually queer grandson....the man didn't blink...he opened up his heart that much wider and loved me fiercely. My grandpa left this world 15 years ago, almost to the day, and it is with so much pleasure that I share with you the winning poem of this year's Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry.

What Is Left When a Prayer is Answered

The ritual. Waking
in the middle of the night.
Sheets soaked.

The half empty matchbox.
Lit white glass cased candles
with ash lipped rims
and melted Santa Barbara stickers on the side.

The daily baths.
Agua Florida and cheap white
flowers that stick to your skin. The red string
of yarn tied around your waist
The wishes tied to your wrist.

The masses.
Tying laughter down
inside your cardigan.
But it’s always too late.
Your best friend started to laugh
and every myrrh scented second
becomes unbearably funny.
This is gonna cost whoever caused
the ruckus at least 20 Hail Mary's.
Sr. Theresa’s ruler raps the pew.

Or is it more like the time
you and your boyfriend
tried hard to hide
hardons in the centerfold
of your Daily Missal
in the front pew
while Father McIntye watches.

Or the visits to your grandfather’s friend.
The Santero would roll
a white shelled egg
over your naked
can't say no


With surgical precision he splits
the egg in the middle
of his hand
where the yolk runs
black. And he suggests a second egg.
You consent.

Or the visits from your friend’s teenage grandson.
His bright red underwear
your b l o o d i s r u s h i n g
loose, faded, blue overalls
Soft hairs
softer. CK Be.
Flavored skin.
An obelisk
of inexperience
pairs best with
the over-easy cracked in your hand.
The second egg,
more eager than the first.

Or the Sunday Morning visits to La Botanica.
The Rainmaker would sing into a woman’s rounded
belly about the dozen before
she collected, carried, tripped over and dropped.
Yolk and hope poured over
black candles.
shaped like a man
and a woman.
without sound.

Or the nights before anniversaries
you spent conjuring
excuses not to visit tombstones,
dead grass and wet mud.
You don't have boots. You don't have time.

Roberto F. Santiago

Roberto F. Santiago writes placing pen to paper and fingertips to QWERTY all as an act of translation. Within poetry, he has discovered a booming collective of voices and a rickety soapbox whereupon he can shout obscenities and prayers at the same time. Roberto received his BA from Sarah Lawrence College and is weeks away from receiving his MFA from Rutgers University. Currently, he is teaching English Composition to impressionable college freshman. Travel has also greatly influenced Roberto as a poet. Be it sitting on the grass at and staring into the sun at Dachau or the smell of rain in rural Québec, he has begun to rewrite his own passport. Roberto also writes and produces music, and has been known to dance until he rips his pants. His poetry has been published in such anthologies as Me No Habla With Acento El Museo/Rebel Satori Press (2011), -gape-seed- Uphook Press (2011). The Best of Panic: En Vivo From the East Village Rebel Satori Press (2010). Roberto lives in New York City with a Pomapoo and feminist Penguino.

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