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"Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus" 

First Place

"Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus" is a circle that draws you in with language that is beautiful and accessible, and strung together with grace. There's a beauty/barbershop-type of conversation about familiar experiences with love going on. And then, without warning, the poet leaves you without a hand to hold, your heart squeezed tight in recollection of a most unsettling thought, one of parental loss and mourning. It's a complexity of emotion we have all known, or dreaded. Our first experience of love, our love for our mother, is so steeped in need. Whether she is a woman that we never knew, a woman we don't like, or a woman who means the universe to us, when we are in pain, we want Mama. How then are we to survive when we experience the ultimate loss of love, the loss of mother? Who will receive the call when we cry out "Mama?" In the poem I experienced this irony. The voice in the poem goes to the lifeless remains of Mother for comfort and to be comforted. After we sit in the tomb, the womb, the hold of an airplane, rocking with Mama, the poet eloquently comes back and takes us to the familiar and mundane again. It's like stepping into a decompression chamber before stepping out of the poem. --Zelda Lockhart

Amo, Amas, Amat, Amamus
by Tanya Olson

Love is a crazy old thing.
One night, you will find yourself on your knees praying
Jesus, please don't let me kill her.
If I go to jail, it will break my mother's heart.

In fact, you should be thankful
for an opportunity to fall to your knees and pray
for the patience not to kill the one you love
because that is one way to know you are in love and alive.

For the secret to love is the other person's craziness
can't drive you crazy. You will never find somebody who isn't crazy
so you need to work on finding someone, who when everyone else thinks
Lord, I could never live with that leaves you thinking
That's alright baby. You're fine, just fine.

The art of loving the crazy I learned from my family,
people like my grandfather, a farmer who wore clunky old boots everyday,
just like I do now, and always swore we never really landed on the moon.
Look at it he'd insist. It's the desert. Anyone can tell
if they will just look closely enough. I can't believe they thought
we would all be that easy to fool.
But we are. It happens everyday.
Like when my grandfather died, and my mother leaned over the casket
and kissed him on the lips, I thought I could never love anyone
enough to do that, and I thought I would never kiss my mother again.
But I was wrong. And I remembered how wrong I was
years later when I looked out the window of a plane
and saw them loading in my mother's casket. At that moment,
all I wanted to do was walk right back out
the plane's little umbilical cord and march my clunky boots
down the narrow staircase to where they store all
the luggage, the food, and the gas and crawl straight
into the hold where my mother was, because I thought
It must be cold down there, and lonely too, and that's no way to go back home.

It's hard to find someone who can understand things like
Grandpas believing moon landings were faked
and a person wanting to fly across the country in the frozen, airless womb
of a plane so a dead mother won't be alone and scared.
Even I will admit these things are crazy,
even crazier than kissing the dead,
but I also hope that someday I will find someone
who will love me for these things,
not despite them, because

love is a crazy old thing and
one night you will find yourself on your knees praying
Jesus, thank you for not letting me kill her.
If she weren't around, it would break my heart.

The fact that Jesus, or whoever, granted you the patience not to
kill someone probably means those people have been down on their
knees praying for the strength not to kill you too,
so maybe that is how you know they love you as well.

For the secret to love is, your craziness can't drive them crazy.
You are never going to not be crazy,
so you need to work on finding somebody who, when everyone else says
Lord, that girl is crazy will put their arm around you and whisper
Don't worry baby. You're fine, just fine.

  • First Place

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