My Neighbor, Only a Name On a Mailbox

by Bernard Henrie
The Waters
Highly Commended, April 2010
Judged by Fiona Sampson


Margaret Yamasaki dyed her hair seaweed color.
In the right light and a few miles an hour of wind
she appears to swim toward me, to come landward,
a water postman, eerie mop of hair waving
in semaphore code.

I imagine sea water beaded in her eyelashes
as she effortlessly swims the Pacific breakers.

Later, she leaves the beach and turns to look
at an old man, a silver porpoise almost metallic
with a backstroke.

At that distance she cannot see my smile
or that I am busy at invisible controls, a pilot
in a cockpit I hope to avert any disaster
she might encounter and to fix all bets
for happiness in her favor.


Highly commended for a great image – “In the right light and a few miles an hour of wind / she appears to swim towards me” – and for the interesting idea, in the last stanza, that the observer is at the controls. --Fiona Sampson

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