The Borrow Pit

by Allen M. Weber
Muse Motel
Third Place, January 2011
Judged by Kwame Dawes

When Earle would say, Need you, Little Bro, I’d always come
running—that’s the way it was. On a visit home from the Navy,
he tells a tale of swimming from torpedo tubes, how his men
take fear to folks you’d never read about in the Daily Gazette.

Growing up, Earle could tread water forever—had to be tough
in the pit by the blueberry fields: the water gets dark, real fast;
the steep mud bottom holds your feet, so there’s no way to rest.
A neighbor boy drowned there—cramped up, maybe, slipping

right under, without calling to his friends. We weren’t allowed,
but some nights we’d sneak down, with a six-pack, to skinny-dip
till the farmer’s hounds got to howling and we’d know that soon
the screen door would bang shut, and we’d see his flatbed Ford

as bouncing balls of light, clattering down the dusty path. Tonight
a black Buick glides in—One Nation Under a Groove and something
like joy pulsing from the open windows—some city boys muling
uncut coke from Chicago. I take one look at Earle—those blue lips,

how they stretch across his berry-stained teeth, and even before
he lifts the grocery bag of money and glinting metal from the trunk,
I understand: not everybody’s leaving this field tonight. Then Earle
tosses a shotgun and laughs, Hey Brother, still like to climb trees?

The lonely maple quivers and startles my skin with an earlier rain.
Hugging a lower branch, oiled steel ices my cheek. Between leaves
I make out that Earle’s showing off—got all three flocked together,
bowed down and kneeling, facing the edge of his still moon water.

Were this poem to lose the heavy “prose-markers” festooned first stanza, we would be looking at an elegant narrative poem of such delicately observed emotion and such carefully shaped detail. The line, “not everybody’s leaving this field tonight” is a powerful turn of the poem that studies the understated casual violence of the scene. The poet has an important gift, the ability to discern what is important and interesting in a moment. In the narrative poem, this gift is critical—it makes all the difference in the world because it is, ultimately, the thing that allows us to see the poem in the moment. This is well demonstrated in this poem. --Kwame Dawes