First Pamphlet Award winner 2022
C.I. Marshall’s first collection, The Locksmith Journeys Into The Afterlife, won the Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award in 2022, and her book will be published in January.
As winner of a the award, C.I. Marshall will be invited to act as a judge for the 2023 competition, reading entries and considering them for a longlist of potential winners.
The book was published on 28 January 2023 and may be ordered in dollars or pounds through these links:
Orders in U.S. Dollars
Orders in U.K. Pounds
C. I. Marshall received an MFA, Creative Writing, California State University, Long Beach and edited ARTLIFE Magazine. Marshall’s poems appear in Verdad, Spillway, Packinghouse Review, Beyond the Lyric Moment: Poetry Inspired by Workshops with David St. John, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Broad River Review, Stone Quarterly Journal and Poems In The Waiting Room, UK. Marshall’s poem, “Myself As A Playboy Bunny” winner, 2018 Verve International Poetry Festival Contest, UK. Her poem “What I Love About Love’s,” Honorable Mention, 2021 Steve Kowit Poetry Prize, juror: Dorianne Laux. Marshall won the 2022 Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Award, UK.
“By turns invitingly conversational and transportingly inventive, C. I. Marshall has the keenest powers of inner and outer observation I’ve encountered in some time.
The beloved dead speak, a dog tells of its genealogy, a busker transports us to another continent or metaphysical realm; incandescently imaginative, witty and poised; and yet the poems are profoundly real, breathing with the energy of life fully lived, mistakes fully enjoyed. An intensely musical, narrative joy from poem to poem.”
“The Locksmith Journeys Into The Afterlife is packed with serious play, with surreal realism and deadpan lyricism. C. I. Marshall has the wit of Frank O’Hara– if O’Hara strolled the Walmart, Jiffy Lube or Ornamental Metal Museum. These pages hold fickle-size horses in purses, pineapple tangy in Tupperware, and Kurt Vonnegut at the DMV. This wonderful chapbook reads like a book because of all Marshall packs into it. It’s abundant with delight and insight. It’s crafted and crafty. I enjoyed these poems at every turn.” Terrance Hayes
“C. I. Marshall’s poems demand time of the reader and repay it well. The language is dense, controlled, and often unexpected; the images fresh and sometimes startling. Familiar names crop up throughout the book but always in unanticipated ways and settings: William Morris loses his British restraint at the Ornamental Metal Museum, Kurt Vonnegut is ‘mad as a swamp sow’ at the DMV. This is a pamphlet to read, and read again, as the poems reveal their layers.”
Five poems from The Locksmith Journeys Into The Afterlife
The fickle-size horse in my purse
smacks his whilst rubbery lips
as he sips my offering of liquor.
Old, he is, with a load of arthritis
in his knees, fetlocks and shoulders.
I learned from a couple in the Verde
Valley that just one tablespoon
any wordy label works, in a bath
of water returns him frisky, tuned.
It works, I tell you, New Age-wise.
Cantering to my car, I lift him from
my old Coach feedbag. Watch him rise,
hunter-style to the back seat of the Kia.
Grateful for his un-shod hooves, as knicks
on leather seats get me, at least, a hundred licks.
After seven minutes of him cavorting back and forth
time to settle in the bag-barn for some rest. Ready
for the next quest of the boiled-down horse and me.
The Locksmith Journeys To The Afterlife
I want to show you how the Gods prepare for his journey.
Come on, his house is a few blocks down on White Cedar,
see in the front yard, in pea-size gravel, a giant cactus
all set to launch. No longer upright; a perfect size to become
a small rowboat, like one a mortal might trailer to a lake.
See, how its arms spread over one another, you might think
octopus, but these sprout flowers, long and opalescent.
For those who bend to them, a smell of Meyer Lemons
and like a tug boat lighting up a harbor, these flowers cast
a spell of ivory crisscrossed over the calm of summer water.
I know what you are thinking, it’s like this sprawled-out
cactus is carrying this man straight into the afterlife,
to a place where locksmiths never get calls on Sunday,
never ever when they are eating dinner. You probably know,
no locks are there, no push pads in the by and by, see how gates
and doors swing open at a fingers’ touch, diaries flutter pages
in the breeze, the weight of safe doors as they stretch wide.
Look now, see the butterfly tabby wearing a diamond collar.
Imagine the locksmith holding both oars of his prickly pear boat,
flower lights casting mottled patterns against the big unknown,
and the diamonds that scatter baby star formations above them.
Something tells him, the feline is his guide, the one to draw him
paths through clouds, across the waters to tie up in cattail cluster.
What I Love About Love’s
(Love’s Travel Stops)
is their vulture-high sign I spy just beyond
grayish soot and bug wings on the windshield.
Neon red letters, long-limbed, dance the swim
sky-wide, sizzle in my brain like a brand.
It is a calling for a stop, be it in Cochise
or Oracle, way up north on 77, my hand
grabs the plastic cup of cubed pineapple,
a wooden stick for eating on the road,
one hand on the wheel per Steve McQueen.
This way station is a haven, where I get
to kill my engine, slide off the driver’s seat,
walk stiff-legged, see those big rigs sweep
into private lots where they line up perfectly.
I walk inside under blazing light, past snapping
gators on a stick, like the broomstick pony from
my childhood, notice the men’s room sign is pitted,
worn dime-thin, the sign on the women’s brand new.
Closing the stall door, astride the toilet seats sparkle
the loud speaker booms, “Number 77, your shower
is ready.” I see myself walking up with a new bar
of lavender English soap, a blooming yellow towel.
Steam rises off bodies shaped by hours on the cab’s seat,
all those cells plummeted again and again by the shake,
the shimmy of the diesel engine. Some drivers muscular,
their skin cracked and furrowed like a Georgia field.
Just like that, I snap back to reality, stare at hot dogs
circling on wires like a Barbie’s Ferris wheel.
On the scent to find the strongest brew of coffee;
mesmerized as it shoots steaming and ominous
into my tumbler. It almost gets away from me.
In line, an ashen-haired man, vein maps on his hands,
grips his classic silver and green thermos, chats up
the lovely cashier. In his mind’s eye, he is back in Paris,
Texas or perhaps Calexico, at his high school dance,
dancing with girls who looked just like her. She listens
to him with her black-lined eyes; matte wings that sweep
over us in line. Thankfully, she doesn’t brush him off
to wait on us. I ponder Love’s slogan, “The Road
Connects Us All” makes me wonder if Eisenhower
predicted this possibility with his web of interstates
finger-toggling across the country. Soon, I’m back
in the car, sipping the best $1.27 cup of coffee ever,
switching the car’s head lights on and then off,
signaling to the purple rig behind me, it’s ok
to change lanes, get his load back on schedule
to the next Love’s, the one, you know, that one
on 3 Mile Lane, bare whisp of town, Muscle Shoals,
way up to the north, tolling on the cusp of Alabama.
William Morris Gets Loose At The Metal Museum
The Mississippi River and the Harahan Bridge, a view Mark Twain
described as the finest between Cairo and New Orleans.
throws his arms over his head at the gates of the Ornamental Metal Museum,
A marvel, a miracle! he shouts, beginning to loosen all that British restraint,
not knowing he is in Memphis, his mind meddling iron stalks to spiral and spire,
curlicues and do-si-dos. A beehive filled with honeysuckle sprig and Sweet William,
how the feeling in both of his hands, each palm begets five newly-sprung fingers;
inspiration for a new cathedral’s stain glass windows, wallpaper for the Red House.
Once inside the grounds, he walks to the bank, Look, he says, “The Well At The World’s
Edge” has burst and here lies the mighty Mississippi – – the Harahan Bridge braving
the serge of this olive-colored body moving before the Pre-Raphaelite like a serpente,
full of desire, each ripple buoyant with vibrato. William gets down, lets the river show
him how to lap against what holds you, how to roll with relentless south-bent currents
working their way to Alexandria, past the town christened Port Sulfur, reptile-like
sliding into the Atlantic, mouth ridged with peaked fangs open to the salt; to the sand.
It’s a Brotherhood, says William pointing to a terracotta tile stamped with a hare, words
that read Brother Rabbit and now, hear Cornell West on “Realtime” as he tells Bill Maher
the reason why he calls Trump, “Brother Trump.” West cites John Coltrane, says, “What do
you think a “Love Supreme is?” William reads from “Earthly Paradise,” gives us
the “News from Nowhere,” his attention shifts back to the river, its surface
taking on a velvety sheen. As he hears a calm voice telling him, the unknown may be
your salvation, fear not the cupping of a strangers’ hand offered to you in darkness.
A Tea Shop Shih Tzu
sits in his cozy bed by the window,
comes over to check me out. I say
his name, Po Thai, enough for him
to talk, to beguile me with a tale.
Squatting on the floor, he gets all comfy,
front paws spell out a canine kingdom
all over the floor. Our history, our dog family,
go back a thousand years. Did you know?
Our nickname was Lion Dog, do you see
the lion in me? Tibetan monks kept us
as their alarm systems; to warn of strangers.
Buddha Manjusri, the God of Leaving,
owned one of us who turned into a lion.
We became gifts to Manchu emperors,
adapting to muggy summers. It wasn’t
long before royals noticed it was us
hearing visitors, barking our warning
before shaggy heads lifted in stables.
You see, our ears are sharper than others,
hearing us signals them to bay and snarl.
Can I help you? the shopkeeper asks.
Po Thai looks disappointed and so am I.
I’d like a bag of Assam and some of that
smoky kind of tea with a long name.
Bending over, I tell Lion Dog, I am sorry.
Tell him I want to know more of his story.
Sitting up, he licks my mask with a tongue
the size of a sugar spoon, says he is used
to interruptions, to all human indifference.
C.I. Marshall launches The Locksmith Journeys Into The Afterlife
Saturday 28 January 2023, 7 pm London Time (GMT)
“C. I. Marshall has the keenest powers of inner and outer observation . . . An intensely musical, narrative joy from poem to poem.”
“This wonderful chapbook reads like a book because of all Marshall packs into it. It’s abundant with delight and insight. It’s crafted and crafty. I enjoyed these poems at every turn.” Terrance Hayes