by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters
First Place, July 2019
Judged by Lois P. Jones

(Kingsmere, Quebec)

Our hands come loose
Flowing with long grass

An ant scales a mountain
Of melba toast, labours
Under our year of blue

We break, we crest,
grasshoppers lop

Off the tips of
Bended crows’ nests

The waves

We sip
like bees–

You lounge
With one long-for-you
Leg, resting

upon the other.

We have no such
Wooly ideas


We will ever look
On this day

With no four leaf clover,
No sheet lightning storm
No meeting with
The ghost that drove
The nation, but tea

In the public parlour,
And a rockaway
View, over it all

— Dunked velveteen
Hugging the shapes
Of hills

That skirts the river
Free, the view free, and the picnic
Basket you brought me

From another century—
Yellowed ivory lid,
Pasted Butterflies, locked

On Tiny golden hinges, black
Basket Weave, sturdy, and

A widow’s
Velvet ribbon
All about, a sedate bow,

No earthly notion
This is it.

In no particular order.

The more I read this piece, the more I appreciate how the poet carefully shapes the breath of the poem to meet its subject. A breath which creates a vaulted space in which a moment lives – perhaps levitates would be more appropriate – within its purposeful structure. We enter in media res and while certain wonderful details ground the poem in the physical world “under our year of blue Cheese” the reader remains aloft in its spell. The poem’s clever use of modifying phrases builds from line to line, “With one long-for-you/Leg, resting upon the other.” There are allusions to time but it is skillfully kept timeless in phrases like “The ghost that drove/The nation”. It could be any time as well as our own when history has amped up our collective sensitivities to national concerns. Later, the picnic basket appears “From another century,” a kind of added balm, evoking our longing for objects as remembrance, even comfort, made in an age when the world was not caught like a wounded bird and placed daily at our feet. There are delicious mysteries to be relished in the poem’s subtleties: a “widow’s/Velvet ribbon/All about, a sedate bow/” but just enough without being obtuse. These are mysteries you can trust. --Lois P. Jones