First Place – 2023 James H. Nash Contest

“This striking and fresh love poem bristles with desire. From the very first line, ‘spelling’ creates a whirl of rapture as romance is sparked on a train.  Exciting diction and verbs—’unfurling,’ ‘sparking,’ ‘rushes,’ ‘crush’—float us through this electrically-charged exchange.  The poem’s title also alludes to a lineage of queer love poems, calling on D.A. Powell’s ‘Writing for a young man on the redline train: “to his boy mistress.”‘  However, ‘Electrons on the Red Line to Bellerive’ is wholly its own creation.  Muscular lines, sonic verve, and tantalizing line and stanza breaks leave the reader on the edge of this unrequited song of longing.”

Hadara Bar-Nadav, 2023 Nash Contest Judge

Electrons on the Red Line to Bellerive


The girl on the metro is spelling me, the flowers
on her dress unfurling in the sway
of the train. I’m afraid
she isn’t gay, and this is for nothing.
But I feel static sparking

between us. Pulling off my boots, I want more.
I slip in my socks as the train rushes forward. Her eyes,
like a gray mass of fibers pulled
from a lint screen, drift

to my feet, Watch for glass. It’s dark
and the night doesn’t catch it the same.
But her voice makes me want
to crush the sharpness of stars into my feet.

REN WILDING is a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent writer with an M.A. in Literature and Gender Studies from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. They have taught undergraduate writing courses at Fontbonne University where they previously received a B.A. in English. Their poetry and fiction have appeared in Bellerive, The Outrider Review, Cactus Heart, and Trans Love: An Anthology of Transgender and Non-Binary Voices. They were a finalist in the Comstock Review’s 2022 Chapbook Contest. Ren lives in St. Louis with their wife and parrot.