by Shawn Nacona Stroud
Desert Moon Review
First Place, November 2014
Judged by Philip Belcher

I love to hear your breath
whispers like the voice
of shipwrecked sailors
carries across the Atlantic’s
surface, seeks out ears
of some lone beach stroller
under a midnight moon—too soon
it will fade amid the wave
crashes that lap through time, filch it
until I wonder
if you’ve ever exhaled at all.

Several aspects of this poem deserve attention and admiration. First, the poet pays close attention to the musical elements of the poem. The sibilant “s” pervades lines 2-6, and then assonance and rhyme become the dominant craft elements. The poet takes a calculated risk in line 7 with the “moon”-“soon” rhyme. It’s hard to bring off an effective use of moon imagery these days, but I think the poet succeeds here. Second, the imagery is focused and controlled. Third, and most challenging, is the poet’s decision to enjamb the lines severely. While enjambment often speeds up the pace of reading, here it actually slows the reader down. Whether the poet intended this, I cannot say, but the line endings cause the reader to pause and consider the different possibilities in verb tense in the first words following the enjambed lines. Although this might irritate a reader in some instances, I think it works here by allowing the reader to explore sound and meaning variants. --Philip Belcher

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      by Billy Howell-Sinnard
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