Of Course

by Christine Potter
The Waters
First Place, September 2014
Judged by Suzanne Lummis

Four of us sitting like a family outside
around a table with a green cloth on it
beside the still, green creek, the trees

heavy and green, the treetops round
as bellies or breasts, our dinner warming
inside, the oven ticking up to temperature,

all of us gone from the hard white light
of the office, the church across the way
empty, evening sun in its yellow windows.

Chimney swifts and the harmless snarl
of a little jet bound for Newark–
in between worlds, in between words.

Of course, someone looked down
into the sad mirror of his cell phone
and said, “No. No, get out of town!”

to no one and soon we all knew what
war, what loss, what invisible flightless
wings were already folding around us.

Some would say it's my affinity for noir and the noir credo -- Baby, doesn't matter what turn you take, it'll all wind up in the gutter -- that draws me to this poem. Those sayers might be right, but we know it's never the subject, revelation, or message alone, that makes the poem -- it's the language.

Wonderful how this poet manages to evoke the components of banal ordinariness with details that conceal a certain bite, "the oven ticking up to temperature," "the harmless snarl of a little jet bound for Newark". (Newark!) Wonderful that someone in the party "looked down into the sad mirror of his cell phone," as if breaking one of those doom-bound Rules set forth in fairy tales and myths, don't look back, don't open that locked door. And I love that delicious "Of course," and the dark absurdity of the utterance that seems to prophesize calamity and failure. --Suzanne Lummis