I, Raptor

by Brenda Levy Tate
Pen Shells
First Place, March 2009
Judged by Elena Karina Byrne

You feed me river rocks, oak bark logged with rain,
a braid of fence wire (grandfather-bone-thin), its barbs
worn to knots. For you, I swallow green bottle stems

the sea has thrown up, blond baleen hair, antler points.
My guts bracket your conglomerate: blood iron, hardwood
ash, pith. Keratin dull as barn windows. Fish-scale mica.

These are the last castings of desire, tossed at night like horns
off some buckdevil. A pockled egg rises from stomach to throat.
I wet it with your laugh, one final drink for you, then hack

a hawk-man pellet. Pwckk! Its heavy oval sinks like a cone
into pine needles. I fly light, easy. You make a rare bolus,
my compacted love. What stranger’s hand will break you?

This dense, strange persona poem, "I, Raptor," emerges within the language of nature and its almost ancient "pith," so that the words themselves are as physical as the things they name. This reminds me of the painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo hybrid nature-men representing the seasons or Hieronymus Bosch and the dark "conglomerate" collection of dark images which penetrate the psyche. The final surprise line serves the poem well and startles us into a sudden present tense knowledge. --Elena Karina Byrne

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      Honorable Mention

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