by Sue Kay
Pen Shells
First Place, April 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum

Drought raises its head, trumpets another amber sunrise, tusks
the earth, charges the faded foliage, tramples, tosses it aside.
Storm-less days wrinkle and die. Dust on sun-cracked skin, dust
in the eyes . On the horizon, dust lightning sparks from clouds
that have rubbed themselves dry. Heat like a prayer for rain lights
the night with a fire line. Drought like darkness grows a shape

shakes itself free of restraints, parches, attacks and backs
its quarry into another hot day. Heat, like the aim of the hunter,
sights the prey, brings it down beneath an ivory sky. Drought pales
everything in its gaze, shimmers the promise of a lake lapping
dry waves. The deep aquifers bleed out pumping into wells
that fail to stanch the earth’s thirst. Heat blows its dry breath

into the land’s panicked mouth, pants a warning ahead of drought’s
heavy foot that stamps, bellows its coming. Heat enters into
every corner, every refuge, wearies of its charge, worries dead
brush and picked bones. Bored with the kill, drought turns once
to see ash and smoke sift over ruined leaves into dry streams,
drift and smother, like doubt, like memory.

From my first read, I was caught up in this poem and on many re-readings that feeling of being swept up in language never abated. The poem is a tour-de-force of image and sound, showing off poetry’s ability to resonate in the mind and ear. This poem also captivated me because the ending culminates in a statement. In that last line, the poet moves away from relying on image alone, saying something about what “drought” means—this is a risky move that pays off, as what is said feels both surprising and, yet, exactly right. --Shara McCallum

  • October 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      The Day of a Girl
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Night Thoughts of a Mottled Songbird
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      The Art of Not Being Descartes
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • September 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Rodent Ulcer
      by Jude Goodwin
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Wild Beasts
      by Bernard Henrie
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      The Two Windows of My Room
      by Sivakami Velliangiri
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      Giving Thanks
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum