In Mission Trails Wilderness Park

by Fred Longworth
PenShells
Second Place, November 2013
Judged by Kelly Cherry


A stream bisects Oak Canyon.
I stand on one side; a derelict Ford Pinto
sprawls on the other.

It lies inverted, like the husk of a dead insect.
As rust reclaims the cab on the far side
of the rivulet, close by, beneath a laurel sumac,

the soil digests the remnants of a squirrel.
A little ways up the opposing hillside,
a coyote slows its pace. It stares at me

with caution, then turns and sniffs the air.
Against this silence, there’s a deeper
silence in the white sage and chamise.

Both coyote and interloper stand motionless.
Everything is caught in the caesura
before sunset, when lungs of chaparral

release first breath, and shadows loom
larger than the things they trail.
It’s a glimpse into a slightly shifted world,

where time-out is a parcel of the game—
the living, the dying, the cycling and recycling,
mysteriously switched to standby—

so that only after sunset gives a nod
will clay resume the path toward earth,
and earth the task of birthing clay.


SECOND PLACE goes to "In Mission Trails Wilderness Park," a poem that beautifully describes a natural scene that includes a "derelict Ford Pinto," a canyon, and a stream. "[T]he caesura / before sunset," a stunning phrase, heightens our feeling that we are waiting for something, our expectancy. All, as the poet says, is on "standby." --Kelly Cherry

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