The Purposes of Alone

by John Riley
The Waters
First Place, June 2022
Judged by R.T. Castleberry

All necessary lives are gathered
in the distance
then dispersed
to circle
and to be available wherever I look
the way the sounds forest animals make
do not come from a single point
but envelop from everywhere.

There will be no more flights across the fields
flitting from pine to pine.
No tree will hold me tight.
No one is to join me when I dance.

From the opening lines: “All necessary lives are gathered/in the distance/then dispersed,” the writer delineates the sorrowful ways quarantine has separated communities. And the final line: “No one is to join me when I dance,” how illness separates us from even that community. It’s a haunting piece of writing. --R.T. Castleberry