We are excited to announce the winner of the September 2023 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Monthly Contest is John C. Mannone with the submission “Untying Burdens.”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.”– Nelson Mandela
The silk touch of the tie I chose for this morning should soothe, and help soften the words that I’m trying to say; instead, it snags like a cheap tie. And my fear is not assuaged.
I rehearse the words, chant them in front of the mirror as I try to tie the Windsor. Perhaps the attention to precision in fashioning the broad symmetrical knot will distract me from anxiety, but the knot presses into the lump in my throat. I undo the noose, try the double knot again, and pull the length of the tie until it’s perfect—its triangular tip cutting the buckle of my pants in half.
I am undone walking into the cold outside, into a stiff breeze disheveling the frazzle of my hair, but the black tie braves against the starch-white shirt and the pallor of my face.
I take a deep breath of unforgiving air but exhale my fear still hovering like a prayer. My hands unfolding, my tongue—no longer rogue—ties the words together.
Now, I am ready to say them over your grave.
John C. Mannone has poems in North Dakota Quarterly, Poetry South, New England Journal of Medicine, and others. Also awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and has several chapbooks and four full-length collections, including Sacred Flute (Iris Press) and Song of the Mountains (Middle Creek Publishing) forthcoming in 2023. He is a professor of physics currently teaching mathematics in East Tennessee.
The Monthly Contests rotate through a pattern of Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction throughout the year, with a new theme each month. Go to the 2023 Monthly Contest Series Info page to view the genre and theme for each month.
This contest is free to enter for members of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild. To become a member, click HERE