by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
Second Place, May 2015
Judged by Lesley Wheeler

There’s a name that takes on status after you’re dead,
but alive you walk among the trees, muttering
to yourself. How bleak, they missed all that: she believed
that damselflies had a smell, a witch’s cauldron rising over

the lake. She told them angel wings rattle in the forest.
Her poems were a failed writer’s “mistake.” Bleak, freak,
chic, oh well. Oblique, does a poem have a smell?
She could conjure, but never spell. Even her chums

with their cobweb noises. Oy, she heard those voices.
She keeps racking up words but never a pension. She makes
politicians cringe. There is an illness for what she has.
Words summon her to the fairy houses. She follows vowels

home like a crusty trail. She could never write prose or something
dignified. She had no lineage, her mother was a plumber,
and has no MFA. Sssh, you might have guessed, her best friend,
declares he’s: earnest. They praise her fast retort, the word

they couldn’t remember never mind utter. You must know her poems
were her children, a sordid clan, brats behaving badly.
As a last resort, they praised her ability to respond with this
or that quotation. Left-foot right-foot, through the forest. Aren’t you

tired, of this brief and meager hobby? Why couldn’t she be a lawyer
and make the trains run. Gnarly bending limbs, a rough line
here or there, a strophe bends low to the ground. Only the sky should
covet sound. She praised real poets, the cardinal’s chatter, she’d hurl words

hard and soft: chartreuse, aquamarine, pearl. A smoldering cinder
became a red thrush about to burst into flame. Listen, hummingbird rests
on his halo, his laurelled boa of light. After she died, they said, “even in silence
she is articulate.” Even then, we wish she’d give voice to angels.

I was hooked by these sound-rich verses early, but “She follows vowels/ home like a crusty trail” clinched the deal. Here a poet’s work develops aspects of a fairy tale quest. --Lesley Wheeler