The Roofer Stays Up

by Jim Zola
The Waters
Second Place (Tie), April 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum


I sit atop this roof after the last
shingler has tossed his last wisecrack
to no one. Across the street, a couple
hesitate in the doorway between
the hushed dark of the house, a brush
of streetlight. I suppose they are lovers
because I am alone. I suppose
that when they spill into the furnishings
of their lives, they’ll touch at the wrist.
Just as I suppose this night will stay
like lovers who stifle their cries
with silk scarves because walls are thin,
windows left open. By morning,
when others arrive, I’ll say
I came in early to avoid the heat.


The subtlety of this poem is what drew me in. The voice is unassuming and its honesty accretes power, as in the lines, “I suppose/that when they spill into the furnishings/of their lives, they’ll touch at the wrist.” The speaker’s observation, here (steeped in metaphor) and elsewhere, brims with insight without being showy or heavy-handed. The diction of the poem is also simple, the lines spare and restrained, all of which makes the existential condition of the speaker (“I am alone”) all the more moving. --Shara McCallum

  • January 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      How the Wind Works
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Sleep Walker
      by Brenda Levy Tate
      PenShells

      Third Place

      The Woman Who Grew up in My House Finds Me on Facebook and Comes to Take a Look Around
      by Antonia Clark
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  • December 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Tires
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Babilu

      Second Place

      Scouring Pots While the World Ends
      by Elizabeth Koopman
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Poetry in the Cultural Revolution
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters