For Leo

by Dale McLain
Honorable Mention, February 2012
Judged by John Timpane

I bite the thread that joins us,
burn the half-assed bridge,
sever the fingers that remember
the curve of your spine.
A storm conjures itself out of season.
Winter thunder breaches my sleep.
Yes, I sleep, curled like a fiddlehead,

small and infected with hope.
You never see me anyway, never listen
to the bones of this house give way.
When the clouds scatter, the Venetian
mirror catches the moon again and again
and I prowl with the coyotes and the owls.
I think of something small and furred

between my teeth. I think of you in a copse,
quiet and still, hiding from me as always.
I bite the thread that holds the stars
in place, watch them scatter on the forest floor.
You pocket one and scurry. I burn
the remainder, for the cold light they hold
is the very color of your eyes.

A poem that simply refused to be forgotten. I found its images in my head even when they had no business there. Argumentative, both with Leo (“You never see me anyway, never listen/ To the bones of this house give way” – superb!) and with the materials of the poem (angrily, it renovates readymade clichés: “I bite the thread that joins us,/ burn the half-assed bridge” . . . the thread isn’t very strong in the first place, yet the speaker destroys it with a bit of dental violence, and the bridge burnt is only “half-assed,” so whatever relation there was, we feel, was weak or questionable or halfhearted in the first place). The crazily mixed-up metaphoric spasm of the third stanza is splendid, with both Leo and the speaker becoming predators, becoming anti-creators, undoing creation, loosing the stars, burning them. More burning. We are left, in this active, prowling poem, with coldness, sustaining the accusal and closing with a chill. Well made. --John Timpane