Outside of the World

by Lois P. Jones
First Place, December 2016
Judged by Richard Krawiec

Suppose fate lay down and froze in the snow
and the world found a place for the next god

by the very nature of things, by the way
the peach tree takes on the sun even when

it doesn’t need it. The way it holds it
in its branches waiting for the fruit to call it

to its next life. Suppose the bird sits alone
on the branch or the chair facing it were the rain

and the way it goes. Suppose the way it goes
was all a god could muster

and that was the life he left you. How you never
really disappear because arrival and departure

are an operating table, and when your body leaves
the room you are still there with your secrets exposed.

Suppose a doctor is a preacher
with a knife and you have let your feathers fall

in a pattern of despair. When your brother sits
in a chair of iron suppose he never really left you

and the day begins with this wind in the branches
and never ends. Suppose your fingers were the flame

of a life you were still living and the man you wanted
came to you as if you were a house built

just for dreaming. Suppose your house caught fire
and you lived this way because it’s the only way

you knew. Suppose the world kept spinning on its stem
without need for plucking. Even when it glistened

like a ripe fruit and all you could do was come back
and try again to taste it.

It’s hard to put ‘fate’ in the first line of a poem and make the poem work, but this poet does - by having fate immediately freeze to death to be replaced by the next god. So our expectations of something eternal, about fate, about gods, is immediately dismissed, which makes us pay attention What is this world we’re entering? From the clarity of ‘the way the peach tree takes on the sun’, to the surreal transition of a chair into rain, to the supposition that even gods can’t do much more than accept ‘the way it goes’ to the realization the poem contains a center where someone left, or died, or both, nothing in this poem is what it seems to be on the surface. A doctor is a preacher, feathers fall in a pattern of despair, fingers become flames, life is a ripe fruit that you can’t pluck, but you still attempt to to taste. The poem leaves you wanting to read it again. --Richard Krawiec