Jona L. Pedersen
Winner of the Thomas McGrath Award for Poetry
Runner-up, John Little Fiction Scholarship
Guest judge Roy Guzmán said that Jona Pedersen’s poems “blew me away in the same way some of Sylvia Plath’s and Anne Sexton’s poems have. The language is relentless, the images eternal, the soul of these poems restless.”
The creative writing scholarship committee had this to say on Jona Pedersen’s fiction: “Lyrical and dream-like, Jona Pedersen’s fabulist tales lay bare the heart-deep truths about the ties that bind us to friends and lost loves alike. While much recent magical realism is content to simply re-tell familiar stories, Jona’s prose opens the old tales at their seams and stitches them to the fabric of contemporary culture, to reveal narrative truths that are both timeless yet of our moment. We look forward to reading Jona’s further explorations in that twilit space between reality and fantasy.”
loves me, loves me not,
loves me, loves me not, loves
me, loves me – van Gogh painted her
petals in the color of a highway
sunset. the world is ending a little
at a time, beginning in this empty
parking lot; California was meant
to burn. on fire, not on fire, on
fire – he cut off his ear, again
and again. then he soaked the sunflower
seeds in his spilled blood. the rivers run
hollow, but he will bleed to water the fields
yellow. he will die on this canvas, his fate
sealed by paint drier than a cactus forest.
acrylics stuck beneath his fingernails,
he scratches the surface of national
geographic photographs. he carried
a thousand ghosts in his palette, somebody,
give him a band-aid for fuck’s sake. who
would have thought that his brush could turn
red into blue and blue into the brightest color?
like light filtering through the blinds of my
window, seeping honey in the morning when
the rooster tattooed on her skin calls on the
scarecrow to protect van Gogh’s field of
sunflowers. she told me it means home and
home is with her always, but I made my home
in the parking lot where the matchstick keeper
dwells. he’s driving across burnt bridges while
trumpets play on the radio, interrupted by static
spells and chants. one hand on the steering wheel
of his truck, a piece of bambi’s antlers hanging
from the keychain. bambi’s roadkill, bambi’s hooves
forever treading the flames, bambi’s taxidermied
head mounted above the fireplace where smoke
signals erupt from the chimney. they say,
don’t get too close, your canvas is only coal
here. your canvas turned to ash, your wings will
catch fire; California burns
I staged my own death,
hosted my own funeral
and from the roof of the church
the weather vane’s beak guided me
away from the sunflower fields
where you were born
and into the tundra
where your doppelgänger roamed.
I had nothing but an empty matchstick box
to ward off foul fowl.
do you remember when I found you
wearing a chicken onesie
in the parking lot at 2 am,
crying inside the car we used
to go chasing ufos at night with?
do you remember abba
on the radio?
and do you remember
that weird thing in soledad? do you
remember after the accident
when you covered my skin in tar like
black honey, rolling me in feathers
from the dead angel in
the trunk of your car?
(you were good with duct tape.
I was good at holding my breath.)
at the airport, you told me:
“don’t be a chicken,”
and pointed to your arm
as if the rooster tattooed on your skin
with cockfight blood instead of ink
could set an example for who
you thought I should be. but
I was the boy with the yellow bike
rabbit with the highest jump
a heart out of its beat.
About Jona L. Pedersen
Jona L. Pedersen grew up on an island on Norway’s coast, but has since relocated to the US to pursue a degree in English with a minor in biology at the University of North Dakota. When they aren’t studying, they like to explore the outdoors, spend time with their two rats, and make art. In their writing, Jona aspires to capture the wonders of the natural world – creating stories which tread the line between reality and dreams.