The Secret Life

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
Second Place, September 2009
Judged by George Szirtes

Seeing things in a light that spirals
down through the arch and tunnel of a nautilus
shell, on the strength of nothing too important,
genuine or real, a modesty, a sense of eyes
indirect, a pearl that bursts snowflake
on a green velvet coat. I’ve memorized us like that,
your arm as it extends to pass me a cup, a copper
penny slant of room, the smell of bergamot

behind the veils of buttery sun. Across the sea
of words, the bickering, the old habits, the stingy yelp
of Dickinson as we read to each other out loud.
The wilderness of the mind is where you are:
a forest that crouches under a bedroom window
while you sleep and feral words find you.

An unrhymed sonnet, it was the last two lines that clinched it for me: the forest that crouches under a bedroom window (a memory of Baudelaire's forest of symbols?) and the feral words at the end. That firmed things up and gave the poem necessary claws. I liked the light spiraling down, then lost it a little on the snowflake and the green velvet coat. I didn't quite know how I was to respond to that. The last six lines , indeed from the smell of bergamot onwards, are very good. --George Szirtes