fiction, poetry & more

First Prize
$1,000 Award


by Kim Hooper

Every night
(or early morning, I guess)
I wake at three o’ clock.
Sometimes on the dot.
Grief hour,
says Chinese medicine.
Which grief, though?
There are so many to choose from.

Every night
(or early morning, I guess)
she calls for me at three o’ clock.
Sometimes on the dot.
It is as if she senses I am awake
(is the umbilical cord ever really cut?),
or maybe she is grieving too.

She climbs into bed,
presses her body next to mine.
The bed is huge,
a King,
a remnant
of a marriage that is no more.
But she doesn’t want her own space.
She wants mine.

I inhale her exhale.
She inhales my exhale.
A circular exchange
of breath.
We are symbiotic,
an ecosystem.

We have lost so much.
The little dog who used to join us.
My father, her Papa.
Her father, my illusions.
She pats my back
with her little hand,
dimples where knuckles will be
one day,
when she’s older,
when she no longer wants
my space.

She feels my pain,
and this pains me.
It flows through her
like everything of mine
flowed through her before.

She is the only human
who will ever hear my heart
beat from the inside.
I am the only human
who will ever feel her foot
lodged in a cage of ribs.

There have been five hearts
that have started beating
inside me.
Hers is the only one that
insisted on beating
outside of me.

She was born a survivor,
while I must become one.
I learn her lessons,
she learns mine.
A circular exchange
of wisdom.


Kim Hooper is the author of six novels, including People Who Knew Me, which has been adapted by the BBC as a podcast series starting on May 23. She lives in Southern California with her daughter and too many pets.

May 2023