Horror Writers Association Blog

The Poets on the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballot


Congratulations to everyone on the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballot!

Most especially, congratulations to the poets on the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballot!!!

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection:

  • Betts, Matt – Underwater Fistfight (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
  • Boston, Bruce and Manzetti, Alessandro – Sacrificial Nights (Kipple Officina Libraria)
  • Collings, Michael R. – Corona Obscura: Poems Dark and Elemental (self-published)
  • Cowen, David E. – The Seven Yards of Sorrow (Weasel Press)
  • DiLouie, Craig and Moon, Jonathan – Children of God: Poems, Dreams, and Nightmares from the Family of God Cult (ZING Communications, Inc., Jonathan Moon.)
  • Gailey, Jeannine Hall – Field Guide to the End of the World: Poems (Moon City Press)
  • Lepovetsky, Lisa – Voices from Empty Rooms (Alban Lake)
  • Lopez III, Aurelio Rico – Two Drinks Away from Chaos (Azoth Khem Publishing)
  • Simon, Marge. – Small Spirits (Midnight Town Media)
  • Wytovich, Stephanie M. – Brothel (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

To help celebrate and to promote these poets, the HWA Poetry Page is proud to present each poet’s favorite poem from their collection (presented in the same alphabetical order as the Preliminary Ballot)!

Betts, Matt – Underwater Fistfight (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

I Left My Heart in San Francisco. I Left Yours Somewhere in Colorado…

…or was it Nevada? Hard to say. I travel a lot. And I’m forgetful.
I know I left your ring finger at a rest stop outside of Dallas. But that’s only
because it was on the news.

Your right ear is still on the washing machine downstairs. I found it in
my pants pocket just as I was throwing my jeans into the wash. That
would’ve been embarrassing. All my clothes would’ve turned out all
EAR-colored, right?
Shoved your spleen down a sewer grate in Livonia, Michigan. Kicked your
jawbone into rush-hour traffic on the Miracle Mile. Wasn’t chasing that
down, let me tell you. I’m sure it was ground to powder by the time those
maniac drivers were done.

It wasn’t Kansas City, was it? Where I left your heart? No. I think that’s
where I left those fingernail clippings. I could take notes, I guess. But
really? More evidence?

What was I looking for? Your heart. Right.

Remind me which one is the “Show-Me-State” again?

Boston, Bruce and Manzetti, Alessandro – Sacrificial Nights (Kipple Officina Libraria)



Night, the Great Unknown,
rolled up in its own shadows,
waits with open jaws
for the night shift, the smell
of Detective Samuel Sandoval.
Night misses his old blue coat
from when he walked a beat.
It remembers the brass buttons
and the stale crumbs
of communion wafers
embedded in its threads.

Sandoval moves along
the riverside drive
followed by a skinny rat.
After an ten-hour shift,
he walks aimlessly
in the dark morning,
still high on adrenaline
and nicotine and hate.
He has to come down
before he can return
to his wife and children
and suburban refuge.

Sandoval hasn’t been
to church for years.
He no longer remembers
the face of Jesus Christ.
The last time he saw it,
it was swinging on
the silver medallion
of an ethnic gang leader,
crudely carved with
no look of suffering
anointing its features.
Rather it smiled at him.
And so did the gang leader.
A mocking sarcastic smile
that seemed to be saying,
‘Calvary, up to you now, man!’

Sandoval has been working
the night shift for five years.
He tries not to remember
the blood-scattered lines
and faults of that passage,
the lives lost along the way.
Night, the Great Unknown,
fate in bone-cold vestments,
is preparing his own demise,
dramatic and startling
or chill and indifferent
as the stone city itself.


Rashida is sixteen-years-old.
Her boyfriend made her
swallow too many jelly shots.
Then he slapped her
because she would not
sleep with him,
because she wanted
to remain a virgin
until she was married.
For her, Sex is the
great dark Unknown.

She runs down the alleyway
to the riverside drive,
running away from
her boyfriend and herself,
running from a future
that is rushing too fast,
her teeth so very white
in the intermittent lights
spaced along the river.
In the long patches
of shadow in between,
Night, the Great Unknown,
claims her with its wing.


Sandoval sees a flash to his right
moving fast, far too fast,
moving toward him,
a shifting flash and a shadow.
He imagines the blade of a knife
that shines in the river lights,
in the black leather of nowhere,
a blade that seeks his flesh.

“Not yet,” he thinks “Not yet,”
while Rashida runs closer,
mouth open, breathing heavily.
Sandoval hears that harsh breath.
Night, the Great Unknown
touches the back of his coat
with its unsheathed claws.

“Chills. Do you feel them, man?”

In an extended fraction
of a fractured second,
Sandoval draws his
revolver from its
shoulder strap
and shoots blindly
— once! twice! —
aiming at that sharply
shimmering light that
is nearly upon him.
The shots echo off
the condominiums
that rise along the river.

“Calvary, up to you now, man!”
“‘Who’s speaking?” Sandoval asks.

The only answer is the
rush of the river passing.
The body on the ground
has stopped moving.


Sandoval kneels beside
the body of Rashida,
curled on its side,
a silver lipstick tube
clutched in one hand.
She’s no longer masked
by the wing of night.
Her face has become
that of a girl surprised
by a sudden rainfall,
by the first and last
thunder of her life.

“Your blood…is mine…,”
Sandoval whispers
to the dead girl,
to the Great Unknown.
He has never seen the
face of an angel before.

Twin windows light up
in the building that
rises above him,
throwing his shadow
on the cracked asphalt,
then a third window,
where the Great Unknown
suddenly appears
in its shadow flesh,
dressed as a tall magician
with a top hat on his head.

A snap of the fingers
lights his long cigarette.
He inhales deeply as
he savors the scene below
as if it were a work of art.
Then he exhales and
blows a coat of fog
across the city.

Sandoval hears a siren.
Someone has called
in the disturbance.
He knows he should run,
yet he remains standing,
half bent over the body.
Though his face is
in complete darkness,
its silhouette is composed
of hard angles and lines.

He realizes that
he won’t be going
home to his family
and the suburbs tonight.
Instead he has been
crucified on the cross
of the Great Unknown.
Soon his own cohorts
will be coming with
their flashing lights
to carry him away.

“Calvary, man!”

Collings, Michael R. – Corona Obscura: Poems Dark and Elemental (self-published)

XXII. Tombs 

Where dead-man’s fingers press through damp-mold soil,
Their almost-sentient, ever-questing tendrils
Feeding on decaying flesh…the spoils
Of death…the murk and slime and stink of entrails:
Where bone-white worms consume their way through bone-
Rich earth, blindly probe vast labyrinths
Of roots until they break through ceiling-stone
And fall and crawl along forgotten plinths:

There gather ghouls in crude-rude shrouds, gaunt faces
Glistening with putrefying gore;
Grave-wax candles wane in skulls slick-smoothed,
Illuming naked souls—corruptive place,
Beyond redemption’s hope to life condemned…for
In nakedness nests biting, flyting truth.

Cowen, David E. – The Seven Yards of Sorrow (Weasel Press)

(the convert of the Presbyterian Yard)

two bushels for the Virgin
redfish, yellowfin, tuna, flounder
season by season
I would bring them to the rectory
the Father would look them over
smell them and smile
taking them to the ladies
in the kitchen

season by season
to make up for not sitting
on the oak pews
watching the golden angels
and glowing glass windows
because of the shame
of my smell

but on the eve of Advent
the waves coarse and cold
my boat late to the docks
I brought my payment
through the unlocked doors

the half lit forms
of him and  a boy
with dark bare skin
the face of fear

waved away with a smile
Father took the bushels
and went back inside
engaged the locks

the lights gone black as I left

in the spring
Father came to my boat
asking for his bushels
withheld for a season

we shall go together
I said
to turn the one basket
to feed a thousand

he joined me
thirty six miles
into the swelling anger of a flash storm
we inhaled salt foam
steering the little vessel steady
till the winds died
and the sea fell flat
blue sky and blue water
melding into an eternal hue

the man of calm

I could have been swept away you idiot

it was an epiphany
to give my offering
to the sharp teethed worshippers
of the great cathedral of brine
his chorus
like the last movement
of a declining hymn

the humming of my motor
anxious for port
striking up another tune

some part of me satisfied
that I had moved on from sacrifice
to find respite in what I once thought heresy

when my feet touched the shore
I was a Presbyterian

DiLouie, Craig and Moon, Jonathan – Children of God: Poems, Dreams, and Nightmares from the Family of God Cult (ZING Communications, Inc., Jonathan Moon.)

“Come, Lord Jesus”

We didn’t fly up to the sky,
Our great mission horribly failed.
But I am glad we made the try,
And everything that it entailed.

The hunger, torture, and final death,
I face my past without regret.
I’ll love the Family to my last breath,
And drown despair in Percocet.

Sometimes, I lay in bed at night,
And I will dream a bright blue day.
The sinners raise hands to the light,
While smiling, I my organ play.

The Family lived and died in strife,
Truly, the best time of my life.

Gailey, Jeannine Hall – Field Guide to the End of the World: Poems (Moon City Press)

But It Was an Accident

Yes, I was the one who left out the open petri dishes of polio
and plague next to the plate of pasta.

I leaked the nuclear codes, the ones on giant floppy disks from 1982.
I fell asleep at the button. I ordered tacos and turned out the lights.
How was I to know that someone was waiting for the right time?

I thought the radio was saying “Alien attack”
and headed for the fallout shelter, failing to feed the dogs.

I followed evacuation plans. I just followed orders.
I was the pilot of the bomber, I was the submarine captain,
I steered into the iceberg. I held the scalpel but I was shaking.
I was the one in charge. I was on the red phone saying “Do it” decisively.

I always imagined writing propaganda; how could I possibly see
what was coming when they dropped the fliers,
when the angry mobs began choking people in the street?
I was always good at creating a panic.

I never saw the Ferris wheel start its fatal roll.
I looked away just as the plane plummeted,
as the building burned. I shook my head at disaster, afraid to meet.

It was just an accident. It was fate. It was never my hand on the wheel.
When you point fingers, point them towards the empty sky.

Lepovetsky, Lisa – Voices from Empty Rooms (Alban Lake)


When fire that sears your soul
comes from within
white-gold and hotter
than the hottest coals
than the center of the sun
than the tongue of God
don’t be afraid
but welcome it
with your life
and the icy heart of you.

It starts as a pinpoint
a wink of light
you might miss
if you’re not looking
then spreads a bit
until it’s the size
of a dime, then
a penny
a nickel
a quarter
an eye burning
with too much knowledge
a hot mouth praying,
a world of light.
Maybe on your thigh
you’ll feel it first:
a tingle, an itch
a hot pulse.
Or maybe it starts
just below your left nipple
or in the palms of your hands,
fiery stigmata
scalding your bones clean
boiling the blood
in your veins
until you cry out
for redemption
until your voice
burns in your breast
and your tongue chars.

As wisdom and wonder
brand your brain
with the symbols of gods,
the trident and
the crown of thorns,
you flicker in the streets
dancing the tarantella
waving your arms
like burning branches
blistering your
blackened footprints
into the concrete.

Silk flames flow behind you
around you
building inside you
and fingers of flame
caress your body
with their hot whorls
spiraling out of your pores
and into your pores
as you scream in ecstasy
your prayers, your prayers.

Be a beacon to others
in your last fevered moments
silhouetted against
the dark walls
of their caves
show them the light
rising from your life
as you swallow
your blackened tongue
and breathe the steam
that tastes like God
deep into your ragged lungs
before you try
to rise again
from your own ashes.

Lopez III, Aurelio Rico – Two Drinks Away from Chaos (Azoth Khem Publishing)


It was late one Saturday evening
When Donnie decided to
Get a tattoo.
He’d thought about getting one
For quite some time,
And the shots of tequila –
Nine in all –
(Or was it ten)
Gave him the final push
That sealed the decision.
What to get, he thought
As he shambled inside the shop.
A skull?
A quote perhaps?
Too many things that could go wrong.
His name?
The name of the girl he was dating?
He was drunk, not stupid.
In the end, he decided on
A hand holding a revolver –
A symbol of protection,
Of rising up and fighting
For what you believed;
A symbol of…
Fuck, he was drunk.
As he lay back on the chair,
His chest bared for the needle,
Eyelids like lead,
He fell asleep.
When he returned to consciousness,
Burning in his chest,
Donnie turned, searching for the artist.
He found him on the floor,
Lying in a pool of blood,
A hole in his head,
Scent of copper hanging in the air.
He shot out of the chair,
Almost slipping on the wet floor.
Heart thumping,
Skin burning,
Tequila wearing off,
Donnie found himself
Alone in a shop
With a dead tattoo artist,
Hardly noticing
The fresh tattoo –
A hand holding a revolver,
Barrel still smoking.

Simon, Marge. – Small Spirits (Midnight Town Media)

The Hurricane

My parents left me a perfect house
with many strong latched windows
to keep at bay the winter winds.
I filled their cases with my books,
my art on walls and table tops,
displayed my pagan dolls on beds,
one for each passage of my life.

From the coast came refugees,
their faces drawn and haggard,
some worried, others angry,
fleeing a paradise gone wild.
I saw the pick-ups pass by,
station wagons with supplies,
laden with what they could save.

The wind stopped playing gentle games,
the chimes I hung have left their hooks.
I saw the trees bend down and break,
heard the restive voices of the damned,
the cacophony of elements,
a horrendous symphony of souls,
beyond the shuttered glass.
I gathered up my many dolls,
clutched their little bodies close
while spirits screamed for hours
in languages I didn’t understand,
as a careless fury made its way
through a house of shattered windows,
they were with me through the storm.

Wytovich, Stephanie M. – Brothel (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Vicious Girls

creatures are what they are—
violent Eves, rotten apples,
victimized damsels, Salem witches;
they bit the snake that fed them
drank his poison,
pulled out his fangs
and now they bleed,
they bleed once a month for his death,
the death of the devil who cursed their wombs
for they are vicious,
they are venomous
they are women,
and they will wait,
patient and persistent,
and damned
and they will sing,
sing in covens, sing in brothels,
sing for men,
sing for whores
and their words will kill
they will damn
they will puncture
for they sing with lips,
lips not of mouth but of sex
sex that weakens, that confuses,
that traps
and once they have you
have you between their legs,
they will kill you,
they will eat you,
and they will love you
the only way
that they know how

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