Somewhere in Our Past

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Waters
Third Place, June 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum


I hold the sky in my hands.
It is a snake that terrifies
yet bewitches me,

undulating over the earth
of my palms,
the worship of my fingers.

There is no end to it.
A stillness in its movement
where space could reside.

The tongue is a flickering of stars.
Its eyes are cold planets.
Its hiss is the language of suns.


The only “telling” moment in this poem is the title. Relying solely on an extended metaphor (the sky as a snake), the poem only suggests what “our past” means to the speaker now. The fact that the poem is surreal in its use of metaphor creates the feeling that the speaker is unmoored, even without the poem locating this sentiment in a narrative back story. The keen diction and phrasing throughout the poem aid, as well, in establishing the tone. The line I am drawn to again and again is, “the worship of my fingers,” but there are many others I might single out as well: the poem is a tour-de-force regarding its use of the image. --Shara McCallum

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