Poem of the Year:
May 2013-Apr 2014
Judged by Lauren Camp
An eye tarnishes; motes drift
from webs and air, to stick
where the shine is fading.
No glaze – only a dustfall.
Death holds its own gravity.
His grey coat stretches dry
over old bone; his rib-rack
heave has ended. In the corner,
a bucket squats where thirst
will never visit again.
On the sill, a mercy bottle
sits drained of its poison.
His last bed is straw, hard
boards under mane and shoulder,
turf bits fallen from hooves
when he dropped down.
He cannot feel our hands now.
His name, tossed among
the rafters, comes back empty.
We scuff in the aisle, waiting
for his absence to solidify.
Something needs to leave;
we have to let it out.
All we understand is a door
into the next room.
The barn cat steps lightly
around us, knowing
this is not her business here.
In the yard, a blue backhoe
purls and shudders.
This poem offers a wonderful encapsulation of grief without settling into sentimentality. The writer actively shows us that there is no escape from the “purls and shudders” of loss. I am wowed by how the writing opens out to emptiness again and again with such muscular language (especially in the 2nd stanza). --Lauren Camp
After we kiss good night
I look at my wife and hear
the rustle of a cigarette pack
though she has not smoked
for ten years, the drag of a
matchstick; the sound of her
high heels fading in the hallway
of our first apartment on
Lexington; one leg a quarter
inch shorter than the other;
she stammers slightly when
very tired and she can stay still
for five hours when reading.
She was once briefly unfaithful
and this winter when the crowd
thinned, we skated slowly round
and round at the rink under
a globe of colored glass.
A surprisingly rich love poem that offers up facets of memory: memory of beauty, memory of moments of agony, and memory of a particular place. It is almost a list, and this approach works — but the list is broken, and mended, leaving the reader with a simple, profound image and the metaphor of circling back. --Lauren Camp
Truth is that box of stars my kids press
on the bedroom ceiling. Shine a light
and they glow a little in the dark.
Then they stop no matter how much light
you give them. They fall one by one.
My father told a story about how he cut off
a man’s ear and stuffed it in his pocket.
When I was seven, the doctors
wanted to break both my legs to fix them.
They bowed just like my father’s did.
Standing side by side we made an M.
Mother told the doctors No. She wore
her anger like a scarf. Father
talked with both hands, grabbing air.
I thought if I could see the shapes,
I might understand his logarithms
of happiness. At eighteen, I ate
a paper star, saw colors in a lover’s face
that weren’t there before or after.
I walked my dog along the broken notes
of railroad tracks, memorized each missing
spike, her favorite spots for squatting.
I walked in shoes of blood. I walked away
from love so many times I ended up walking
back to it. When my father died,
I searched his pockets and found the stars.
The writer navigates sharp turns while exploring themes of truth and love. This poem provides an intriguing and complex view of the nature and surprise of veracity (what is real? and how is it affected by different perspectives?) --Lauren Camp
The Write Idea
He was used to waiting,
and the transit lounge on Platform 1
wasn’t too bad.
The Polish girl behind the desk
was busy, busy, busy with enquiries.
But he could wait.
After all, he had his own chair to sit on.
He would wait until someone noticed him
in his too-big scarlet jacket
and black cap loose on his skull.
He had all the time and no time –
a piece of travelling debris. He slept.
Slept to attention, hands like a handful
of kindling resting on his knees, and a tide
of travellers washed around him.
The solitude in this poem appeals to me. We’ve all been travelers, waiting for the next destination. We’ve all been anonymous on the journey. We understand the subject, and believe its authenticity. The poem provides a compassionate eye toward the canvas of travel. --Lauren Camp