Today I Was Her Dad Though Tonight She Asks Me Where The Man Is Who Raked Leaves

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block
Highly Commended, May 2010
Judged by Fiona Sampson

She got out of bed today.
I asked her to help me
in the yard, surprised
that she said yes.
She raked ulu leaves
into a pile of crumbling
softball mitts.
After five minutes, she tired,
sat in the lawn chair
examining her fingernails
as if other worlds
brood at the gnawed edges,
which she does when she’s not
rubbing her bed for hours
like the Eskimos do
when they rub clockwise
one stone against another
waiting for a vision.
Home Boy jumped on her lap,
coaxed her red-blotched,
dried, and flaking hand
from out of its sleeve
to scratch behind his ear.
She was no longer Rosie
or Sarah, or unable to answer,
or the forty year old
daughter with no name.
She thanked me
for helping her in the yard.

A good, clean delivery of a straightforward, well-balanced poem, almost religious in its clarity. This material could so easily have been saccharine in less-experienced hands. --Fiona Sampson