The House on Limestone Street

by Shawn Nacona
The Waters
Second Place, August 2014
Judged by Suzanne Lummis

Late at night
he would stumble in the back door
after a hard day at work
turning money into beer
the way Jesus once changed
water into wine. He was
messiah of our household, the real
deal. Just one stroke
could convert happiness to hurt, joy
into fear, bread became starvation
knotting our stomachs
all year. We learned to be
as invisible as the angels
that silently witnessed our suffering—
like them we said nothing
when he stumbled past our beds
into their front room bedroom, listened
to their nightly revival; the creaks
as mother hymned his name:
“Oh God, Oh God”— such praise
heaped on he who reigned
over every part of her being.

This forceful poem, short and efficient, winds together the holy and the debased, allusions to the sacred with revelations of violence, to create a portrait of a brutal man and his subjugated family. And in a final twist, it is the wife and mother's ecstatic capitulation that seems to surround this figure with an aura of divine power. It's a sad story and an old one, one that has recurred down through history and around the world, but this poet has found a fresh approach to the material. --Suzanne Lummis