by Kenny A. Chaffin
First Place, December 2018
Judged by Jeanette Beebe

I’m glad you got new tires
I wouldn’t have thought of that
unless the weather got bad
and you were on the road.

I don’t think of much of anything
these days, just sit in front
of the TV or computer not
thinking, not even reading

much any more. Sometimes
making words like these
on paper or sometimes
not even that.

This poem is complex, which feels both satisfying and surprising. The voice is direct and relatable, which makes us feel closer to the poem. I hear a faint echo of William Carlos Williams's poem, "This is just to say." The repetition of simple nouns (weather, road, days, TV, computer) supports this effect. The atmosphere is so familiar that the most novel, unexpected word might be "tire," even though it's in the title and the first line. The mood overall is intimate and non-threatening — so when the final line arrives, and the poem ends with a sense of loss, the shift is poignant. This is impressive, really, because the poem has somehow managed to convey what it feels like to face a loss that is there — it means something — yet isn't traumatic. Much creative work focuses on more intense, dramatic losses; it's surely rarer for a writer to successfully translate this type of unease. Even the poem's form helps this effort: the final sentence ends in a rhythm that feels abrupt, and the last line's empty space (after "even that") confirms this feeling of coldness. --Jeanette Beebe