Patagonia Lost

by Sylvia Evelyn
Second Place, December 2019
Judged by Laurie Byro

In many ways I’ve left behind friends and loves
I cherished most, and yet as years go by the word
adios is bound to me with sounds of austral doves,
of unreal Patagonian skies, where a circling bird

swoops to snatch a creature fleeing in the brush;
of trails Tehuelche stalked in bygone days,
of firelit camps remote from noise and rush,
when armies hadn’t sliced the steppes with railways

built to traffic guns, or white man purged
boundless plains of jaguars and ñandues.
Concrete dams and pylons emerge
on cactus lands, now bones shed lucent hues

on tablelands swept dry by singing winds.
Thus memory is laced with images
of childhood pastures, as well as tender things
the mind will not let go despite the ravages

of time and loss. So to the present day I smile
to think of worlds I lost, of red horizons
receding in a cone of southern light, while
myths and spirits summon me from pantheons

of Patagonian lore. Yet in the mist of fading
thoughts that grip my heart, or force an odd grimace
to peer from phantom walls, I cannot bring alive the swaying
poplar trees, nor speak to you, nor touch your face.

"Patagonia Lost" has wonderful imagery, end rhymes, but also gorgeous internal rhymes. It is masterfully done, so much so, I had to go inside the poem upon reading it out loud a few times, to catch some of the subtle extra music. Consider: most/adios, guns/plains/concrete dams/cactus lands and a killer last line: "I cannot bring alive the swaying poplar trees, nor speak to you, nor touch your face." We have the pleasure of being in Chile without leaving the comfort of our chair. I do believe these careful word choices took some effort because of the added attention to half rhyme and rhyme; we benefit from the carefully observed memories. --Laurie Byro