by John Riley
The Waters
Second Place, September 2018
Judged by Kathleen Hellen

The past is buoyant and soft,
billows a sail full of charm
if you’re alive—but we dead
have past as present, no time
raises a head to say “I’m
the current and this day should
course through you like a breeze.”
Stones fly, fire excites each hour,
suffering can never be surrendered.
We walk along the ridge suspended
without support cross the bay
that lures the passing ships
to dock with their doom and unboard.

A collective of the dead---the “we” of “no time”---addresses the living in the tight syllabics of this poem, buoyed with references to water/wind (time is the “current,” day is the “breeze”). They remind us through the culminating metaphor of “ships” that we are passing through “stones” and the “fire” that “excites.” They tell us suffering can “never be surrendered” and wait for us to “dock” and “unboard.” --Kathleen Hellen