We Give Back What We Cannot Keep

by Jim Zola
The Waters
Third Place, November 2013
Judged by Kelly Cherry


Better to begin at noon with bricks instead of river rocks,
with three train crossings we call the bones of Mister Jones,
with a river that rises in locks, with a father who works
at the ice factory and brings home sculptures, nudes reduced
to acceptability, swans without wings,
with a mother whose hands are whiter than fishbone.

So we begin with departure and travel this distance
between us, as if to touch is to travel.
Or with sleep, sound, back to back. When I wake,
I am three and flying around the basement,
my shoes scuff the red cement floor, my legs
are braced. Father kneads them with his icehouse hands.

We give back our mothers and fathers, sweat fresh
on their faces, give back birds that rise from the thin
comfort of branch to shake the elms, give back the field’s past.

Outside this window, there are no fields. There are warehouses,
the clatter of train and track, and warehouse birds.
They hop on corrugated rooftops.
They sing for our leaving.



  • August 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The World Is Moist in the Morning
      by Terry Ofner
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Epitaph
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      I kissed a tree
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

  • July 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The First Time I Drank With My Father
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Bicycle
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      J. Alfred Prufrock Searches for Mrs. Right
      by Laurie Byro
      Babilu