by Kendall Witherspoon
The Waters
Second Place, June 2019
Judged by Melissa Studdard

After making love, she whispered
in my ear the start of his name.
We both ignored it, like it was
a mediocre glass of red wine, or
a fly on the bedroom window.

I thought it didn’t bother me,
together five years, almost,
but our life still fragile as a tomato
plant rushed to the April garden.
Later planting purple lettuce,

both of us tried to erase the slip
with the soil and sun we loved.
I had to, in my smart ass way,
ask if she knew I was not him.
She came to me, squatted

in the row, held my weak hand
and said I love you, and only
you. You believe that, right?
And I know she said you, but
I heard his name three times.

Operating within a beautiful economy of language, “Fragile” says so much and employs such fitting, easy-to-digest similes. By leaving out extended context, the poet creates an especially powerful last stanza that primes the reader to not want to believe the lover. This makes the last line, regardless of what is actually in the lover’s heart, ring like an incantation to truth. --Melissa Studdard