brief

by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum
Second Place, May 2011
Judged by Judith Fitzgerald


I found the blue one on the bottom of the cage,
dead in the way that only birds can be,
a feathered husk. It weighed no more
than the memory of an unremarkable day.

I might have worn it on a thread, an ornament
of sky and sad curled feet. Things die.
We are such unheeded orphans, afterthoughts
at best. Our histories are barely mounds
upon the earth’s resilient back. Our stories

find no audience. The long nights consume
the heart, the heft of bone, the light
that someone might have cherished.
We are fistfuls of feathers, so insubstantial

we fear the wind and the crush of wheels.
It would take so little for us to fall,
to be wrapped in a shred of lace
with only a suggestion of blue to mark
an epoch that once was winged.


An outstanding lyric among many cut-above compositions this quarter, "Brief" immediately captures its reader's attention laying down exquisitely original lines and startling breath-catcher phrases — from the way "it weighed no more / than the memory of an unremarkable day" to "an ornament of sky" or "the earth's resilient back" (identifying but a trio of its stunners) — that build towards its subtle conclusion concerning the fragility and tenacity of both our humanity and our environment(s), those grounded in the sensorium and those founded upon physiological, psychological, and bedrock standstill. Profoundly gentle yet never maudlin, wistful yet never wanton, "Brief" dishes up an imaginative slice of living better electromagnetically meshing in the moment while simultaneously transcending it. Finely honed to a near-elegiac exactitude, the poem sticks to one's ribs, its many layers consummately polished and supremely controlled by inevitable stanzaic arrangements to bring the work's persuasive — although hardly pedantic — ingredients together in a veritable food-for-thought feast. Form and content blend seamlessly, oddly complementary, given jouissance's brief ecstasies, unevenly accurate, drolly contained, and masterfully restrained. Unforgettably lovely. Why? Primarily because "our stories / find no audience" (but "Brief" nevertheless preserves them with compendious care and precision). — Judith Fitzgerald

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