Somewhere the Sun Is Shining

by R. L. Crowther
First Place, May 2010
Judged by Fiona Sampson

Heat only half-warmed by the furnace coals
reluctantly slipped through the open grate
to an upper floor, sun-up hours away;
a twelve-year-old’s sense of duty only
puts off, but can’t avoid the grappling cold.
Too soon the triple-layers of sweat shirt
replace the double-layers of blanket
and, dark or not, cold as it is, he goes.
Save for the milk truck and all-night diner,
LaGrange lay in the contests of winter,
unwilling to leave the heat of the homes,
as was the boy only minutes before.
The dog up the street hears the unquiet
quiet of bicycle chain and wheel-bounce
off the frozen bricks of the road. Light shines
through the laundromat window as a sun,
sprouting bundles of newspapers outside,
culled like daily harvests of winter wheat
as if all weeks were the month of July.

Inexorably, the news is slipping East,
past Cold War Europe, into Vietnam,
into Laos, into Cambodia;
the revulsion of self-immolation
has only just invaded the front page;
no one here understands their frustrations…
yet. Inside the laundromat, the papers
are folded and wrapped while the juke box blares…
Well, everybody’s heard…about the Bird.
Ba- ba- ba- Bird, Bird, Bird…Bir- Bird’s the word…
Lady Bird leads the charge to clean up road-
side junk yards while the Great Society
staggers its way out of Washington to
waiting arms of Hoosiers everywhere.
A miniature flock of Paul Reveres
pedals off to spread the news fit to print:
(Plop)The Russians are coming, says one porch;
(Thump) God is Dead it says behind a door.

In the future, everyone will be
famous for fifteen minutes—just as long
as it takes to grab the papers and bolt
down a hot chocolate and two donuts.

This is a highly-contemporary use of blank verse (at base): the form lends it authority and “measure”. I like the way it moves between present and past tenses, so that we feel it’s being told both then and now (and indeed it is a poem about another zeit’s geist); both in the 12 year old’s bedroom and LaGrange’s bed. The result’s a sense of multiplicity and community: of things on all sides. A very fine evocation, done with the lightest of unschematic touches. --Fiona Sampson