The Photograph

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum
Honorable Mention, May 2018
Judged by R.T. Castleberry


Look past the tanned, laughing faces;
past the ease of friendship; past eyeliner
and braces, perfect skin free of worry lines.

The shadows around them say 11 a.m.,
hours since oyster boats slipped through the mouth
of the Potomac to dreg the bay’s beds.

In the corner you see empty docks,
gasoline pumps, a police boat swaying
chained to the pier, the waters much cleaner

than decades ago when industrial waste
and chemical froth choked out the rockfish,
suffocated the bivalves. Recovery can take years.

Now eagles and osprey swoop to snatch
any gleam of silver from the waters. You set a sweating
glass down on the table, slip into a kind of grace

you never see coming. Somewhere beneath the tides
a body floats out of sight, one of the boys
who jumped from a boulder on a dare,

or leap from the bridge out of despair, a lone figure
falling into the grey, swirling waters as miles
away skipjacks haul in nets heavy with mud,

shells, and eelgrass. What mother
could imagine her son lifted
by the cold hook as it drags along the bottom?

In the photograph, there’s no hint
of the tragedies to come, just the realization
the gates of suffering are always open and ready

to give birth—hair slick with womb juices, skin pearled
to a waxy smoothness, the body curled as it breaks
the surface, ready to sing out its wail of life.



  • March 2022 Winners

    • First Place

      September Heat
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      At the Cancer Center
      by Terry Ofner
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      Third Place

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      Honorable Mention

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  • February 2022 Winners

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      Second Place

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      Third Place

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