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Honorable Mention The Definition of Tragedy By Robert Wilder

The Definition of Tragedy, the Chinese exchange student explained, is when “something precious is broken in front of you and you are forced to watch until every last piece is ground to dust.”

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No one said anything in class after that, all the American students having been fed Western definitions from Cliff’s Notes versions of Odysseys and Oedipi. As the teacher, I am required by pedagogical law to fill silences with open ended questions or affirming hums, sounds to cushion sadness and atonal beats of the human heart but that day something had already broken inside of me something fragile, like an ancient vase from some far off dynasty.

Lungs of the Earth By Gabe Gomez For Hilary According to the bulletin board the Amazon is known as the lungs of the Earth Where tenured tucum palms are meaningless Save their spiny bark and industrious fiber The place, and I‘m quoting, is full of life We begin to forget this moment as it begins Our disappointing sleep on planes bookend the hours apart Reading into things you’ve photographed and eaten In seven seconds, something new will begin We dream of echoing folding chairs Over parquet floors of Versailles or mom and dad’s Its own moment cracks the sky And its collusion with sense

Now I remember: That wasn’t the assignment at all— I wanted the students to write about the opposite of tragedy, not tragedy itself, because everybody knows the sad stuff already.

How it will travel from the lungs, exit the lips, Then slip quietly into the ears to confuse Consequence of order, vertical lift, recycled air The science is soft but alarmingly good

In needle-perfect English, the Chinese exchange student continued: “The opposite of tragedy must be something held close or kept whole by love.”

We dream of ourselves as puzzles and quarks Your face takes shape in the curtains We are its sun-bleach stains Safety webbing in the glass

I reached out with my arms to illustrate her point but managed only to knock a dictionary onto the floor which startled almost everyone

A crane afloat in my breathing You land in its fiery wind Ignite the atmosphere Then sleep beautifully, if not, sheepish to the Violence shared by the markings Left on our bodies after coming home

except the Chinese exchange student who was too busy dreaming of home. Robert Wilder lives and works in Santa Fe.

Gabe Gomez has two published collections of poetry: The Outer Bands and The Seed Bank. He lives in Santa Fe.

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