“A” by Claire Wahmanholm came in 2nd place for the 2021 Palette Poetry Prize, selected by guest judge Jericho Brown for “its commitment to and innovation of form.” We’re honored to share this remarkable poem with you.
American algorithm. Again. Another. Automatic. A is antecedent, anterior, the abscess from which all else
arises. The atrocity in the attic, but also the attic’s architecture. Also the aisle, the apse, the arcade, the atrium.
The atria of the heart, the aorta, the walls of the arteries. A is for ambient and amniotic, for always in the
atmosphere. It is about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at. Again. Like an anthem. The
aquifer we drink from. Ad nauseum, ad extremum. Anytime: April or August; autumnal or annual; antefact or
aftermath; ante-mortem or autopsy. No astonishment, no anomaly. Not agape or aghast. Not anymore
Another. An accident; the back of an ambulance. An abrasion, an ache, an affliction, an abyss. Not ancient, not
antique, not ago. A is for always, for anagram. Again. An archipelago of blood across an avenue, from area
code to area code, reaching arroyo, atoll, arch, alluvial fan. Again for the albatross shot down, for the
asphodel like an asterisk beneath an armored vehicle. An animal astride a body on the asphalt; for attaboy. A is
for audience. A city assieged, aflame, alight. A is for arson and ash, for the aureole of aerosols. For the aspens
aquiver in the acrid air. For asphyxiation. A is for air freshener. Another. A is the alarm absorbed by the
amygdala, the anvil of anxiety, the agony rising along an axis. Again. Asymptote, avalanche, amplitude
acceleration, accretion. Again. In the American alphabet, as long as A is for acquit, absolve, amnesia, it cannot be
for aloe, apricot, Arcadia. No ambrosia, amaryllis, anemone, arum lily. A must be for alive. Antivenom. Ave.