by Judy Kaber
The Waters
First Place, December 2020
Judged by Jim McGarrah

It’s not like I was hungry from the start.
I just returned the stares from those in need
of touch. I couldn’t keep myself apart.

I wasn’t good at music or at art,
but I knew how to germinate a seed.
It’s not like I was hungry from the start,

but boys just fell into my open heart
and propped their feet up there. So I agreed
to touch. I couldn’t keep myself apart

from red and tender lips. I’d hate to chart
How many boys I kissed. It wasn’t greed.
It’s not like I was hungry from the start.

If tenderness were graded, I’d be smart,
I’d get an A. They all knew how to read
my touch. I couldn’t keep myself apart

from love. (Or was it lust?) One would depart,
a face of salt and glass—another came to feed.
It’s not like I was hungry from the start.
But touch! I couldn’t keep myself apart.

For something given, something else is usually taken away. This is often true in poetry. One of the many reasons the American Modernist poets quit working in forms was because they saw a specific form as limiting. Other technical and substantive craft tools needed to be expressed in a burgeoning American idiom. Sacrificing those tools to make a rhyme scheme work became untenable. Thus, the popularity of vers libre, or free verse. This is arguable, of course, as proven by the many excellent poets (i.e. Theodore Roethke, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and W.H. Auden, among others) who continued using forms throughout the 20th century. This poem is a fine example of both form and substance. The form is called a Villanelle. A chiefly French verse form, it runs on two rhymes and consists of five tercets and a quatrain in which the first and third lines of the opening tercet recur alternately at the end of the other tercets and together as the last two lines of the quatrain. And, it is difficult to use without convoluting language and sacrificing imagery. “Avaricious” achieves that balance quite well. It begins as an apparent treatise on greed as evidenced by the title, but by the end the poet has discovered greed is closely related to need, that hunger is about more than food, and appetite can become obsession. Very impressive. --Jim McGarrah