Foxfire

by Lois P. Jones
PenShells
First Place, June 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum


Only a careful bird like me can see
your nine tails twitching at once.
The small pointed snout of a dog,

your fur a place of night crawlers.
You have ears on your legs — bristles
turned to hear a rabbit’s breath,

the rasping of earthworms, all the quiet
without defense. You have fed
on my eggs. I see them in your

phosphorous eyes as if a lamp swung
before your face. You are everywhere,
shapeshifting like a shore, aurora

of Northern Lights. Even as I perch
near the Canal du Midi your tails squeeze
my thoughts, wind toward the wide mouth

of the river. You smell of the feast,
the afterbirth, your lair musky with the slain.
Glistening and beaded.


This poem is in great company and holds its own with the likes of poems by contemporary poets Lucille Clifton and Adrienne Rich, who have also used the fox as a metaphysical conceit. The language of this poem is highly inventive, rich and evocative, and is what immediately distinguished it. Phrases like “rasping of earthworms” or “your lair musky with the slain” conjure fantastical images. On repeated readings, though, I also loved how the poem tethers us to the real: the direct address used in the poem creates a relationship between the speaker (the “careful bird,” perhaps a goose, whose eggs the fox has “fed on”) and the fox, which extends the conceit of the poem further, delivering in the process a complex allegory of the bond between victim and victimiser. This fable-like poem accomplishes the feat of bringing pleasure to the reader, even as it disturbs. --Shara McCallum

  • January 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      How the Wind Works
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Sleep Walker
      by Brenda Levy Tate
      PenShells

      Third Place

      The Woman Who Grew up in My House Finds Me on Facebook and Comes to Take a Look Around
      by Antonia Clark
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  • December 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Tires
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Babilu

      Second Place

      Scouring Pots While the World Ends
      by Elizabeth Koopman
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Poetry in the Cultural Revolution
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters