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Stacey Balkun

2020 Michelle Boisseau Prize second-place poem


          Before the boys came     with Milwaukee’s Best

                       the boys came     with bottle rockets

                     and before that     books of matches           

                            they’d flare     tossed in our hair

                       just to hear us     screech 

                             and before     the boys came with 

                        Leathermans     the boys came 

         with sticks they’d use     to poke 

   at the backs of our knees     at our thighs and once 

                                 we went     fishing together, popcorn 

                 tied to a shoelace     we’d take turns 

dragged through the creek     they swore it

                              every bite     all was theirs 

                                reeled in     fighting

                              for breath     through the shallows


             then we knew 

          who was the hunter            

                       who was the prey


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Stacey Balkun is the author of SWEETBITTER (Sundress 2021) and co-editor of Fiolet & Wing: An Anthology of Domestic Fabulist Poetry. Winner of the 2019 New South Writing Contest as well as’s 10th Annual Contest, her work has appeared in Best New Poets 2018, Crab Orchard Review, The Rumpus, and several other anthologies and journals. Stacey holds an MFA from Fresno State and teaches creative writing online at The Poetry Barn and The Loft. Visit her online at

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