Yard Work

by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum
Second Place (Tie), April 2012
Judged by Shara McCallum


The shed is orderly, all muted shades,
and there within I am a glimmer.
The air smells of cedar and rust.
I find shears in a coffee can,
wrapped in flannel, blades ready
still to whisper in polished sighs.
In this beautiful solitude, I cut the sapphire

threads stitched on me, cipher
of disregard, a pilfered incantation.
The pure laziness of affection
staggers me, as if it were a bundle
of broken branches thrust at me.
Now I hope for a late frost to dull the glass,
clouds to tether the sky, a night cold

enough to sleep a silvery sleep.
But the year has lost its keen edge
and by mid-day it is too warm
to weave into this poem. I am hungry
for some faith, a curtain of radiant light
to shield me, but there are flowers
instead. A confection of blushing buds

trembles against the cloudbank.
Listen, I exaggerate. The days are sweet,
laden with splendid little sufferings.
I feel like a saint until nightfall when sin
nips my heels. I hate this weather though,
the frail cusp of spring, all tender and bright.
It reminds me of everything that ever died.


I love this poem because it constantly surprised me: with its diction and phrasing, as well as its imaginative reach. The physical and emotional world the poet attends is meticulously rendered and is also often being undercut, lest it become sentimental. Even the poet’s own stance is self-consciously tempered as in the sentence, “listen, I exaggerate.” And the last line of the poem offers the biggest and most satisfying turn of all: that beauty ‘reminds us of everything that ever died.’ --Shara McCallum

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