CBC Literary Prizes·CBC Poetry Prize Finalist

Mouth Prayers by Luka Poljak

Luka Poljak has been shortlisted for the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize.

Mouth Prayers explores 'both the injustice and the incredible beauty' of being young and queer in Canada

Luka Poljak is a poet based in Vancouver. (Ian Redd Photography)

Vancouver poet Luka Poljak has made the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize shortlist for Mouth Prayers.

He will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and his work has been published on CBC Books.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 24. They will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and will attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity.

Poljak is a Croatian Canadian poet currently in the BFA program at the University of British Columbia. He is a board member of the non-profit YouthCO and is currently working on his first chapbook of poetry. 

Mouth Prayers was inspired by Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill, which passed in March 2022, Poljak told CBC Books.

I find it more important than ever to explore the queer identity in my work.- Luka Poljak

"I find it more important than ever to explore the queer identity in my work. As a young queer poet, I want my work to highlight the dichotomy of both the injustice and the incredible beauty of being a gay man in Canada in this day and age. Mouth Prayers is my attempt at that," he said.

You can read Mouth Prayers below.

WARNING: This poem contains strong language and is sexually explicit in nature.


I.

Leaking        through this town      is      a road      watch        the little boys      slip down      its       
curves like      a tongue        to a          railroad track          that          goes        rum drum        rum
drum        twigs choked between        fingers        laughing like            chainsaws          for
warmth      rum        drum drum      rum drum        drum        and here      the lights    are             
not working      they are        never          working        they flicker          black-yellow   
black-yellow  wingless        bees wailing        in morse        code          and there's something      foreign          about our hands        how the          hands      of the first        boy I fucked      in        a bathroom    purpled around a        steering      wheel        going          slingshot down        the          freeway how his          body          sandpapered            the pavement        baptized his insides      in glass      how the      trees were          screaming          too    like    a wind    that      curls        itself into a    fist        before coiling        back like a        punch        and somewhere        two        boys      sit          under a kitchen          lamp            whispering about        their        own bodies      like      secrets 

II.

Tonight      I am      a        boy        sitting      on      a bed      with        another boy        our fingers twined      like barbed-wire        in prayer    smiles        worn under      jaws      like chokers to pleasure        a pain        when I        split my      legs        I am        begging          the other boy to        stretch me          open        fill me        with the      weight of          my              loss      to lick              the existence      off my        armpits            like syrup        peppered            in sweat the      metaxy formed      between      our tongues a        silence            the length of        a double-ended          dildo          the meaning of        stop      when I tell him          it hurts      as      if to        sew      the        moonlight        gushing in      through the window            from night's open            wound      he says      pleasure is a      key      he'll        open with lips    unlock the crotch    waiting to be        licked          which    is to        say he wanted      to be in      my room and by my        room          he meant          my bed      and by my bed      he meant    inside  me    and when he        is        I imagine        a sky        sprinkled              in fireworks          bursting    like fruitpulp      impregnating        the sky        in      pink 

III.

In our house        my father        tells      me about        the war        that      cauterized his    country      the chalk      cliffs and          fig trees        and pink        oceans        of a land    I will never visit        the fingers his        countrymen      lost        from a cold      how it      plucked    them off like    grapes says    hands are      sacred      to be careful      where they        touch  how he      broke his own      hand      one morning      beating      me        when I asked      if men    kiss          other men      and kicked me        out      of    his house each        word    a pickaxe      out        out      years later        I will        pass a brick      sign      that        reads      my being does not        birth        children and      punch the        wall break          every bone    in my fist        that    night      I will dance        to my brokenness      while        the sound      of  gunshots      outside tempo          my body        I am      a      love story        I carve        flowers into my    arm      to feel          beauty        those bullethole        nights    I dream of    sliding          down the road that        birthed        me        to a wood        watch my toes      lift      up from snow    to night's      pimpled face pop        stars from      the sky rip      through      the black        sheet above and tear          my whole body        through like paper      to moon      only to fall      in love with          a spacerock          that      can't love      me back          heartbroken        I come back to earth      to a man        sitting      on my bed      drenched in dark        his foot pressed            on my face        while he        fucks me        and        the          lights are          not working they      are      never working    and          this is        somehow okay        and    the man      keeps      saying it's        okay        it's okay        it's okay      and I        whisper        the man's breath back        to him          okay      okay        okay 


Read the other finalists

About the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize

The winner of the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

The 2023 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January. The 2023 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

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