by Allen M. Weber
The Waters
Second Place, February 2020
Judged by R.T. Castleberry

In the sudden night before the storm, a banditry foraged
beneath a ceiling of marbled clouds—a sky that has you
take stock of your losses. We sorted through a box of letters
and photographs, considering the history of each.

Oak popped and whined in the stove. My wife paused,
solemn with a picture—my brother, on his final visit. In fading
color, black cap awry, he’s still hand-in-hand with our sons,
racing headlong to somewhere beyond the focus of a lens.

How quickly snow covers the seeds that towhees scatter
to the ground. I went outside to fill the feeder. A windfall
chickadee, deceived by the light from our kitchen, fluttered
against the window, until, worn out, he let himself fall.

I pressed my finger to his breast. He hopped on, tilted
his black-capped head, and fluffed against the cold.
Weary one, the darkness bewilders us all. I’ll shelter you
in the holly hedge; by now an owl is watching from the barn.

With the final two stanzas, the poet performs a neat twist, taking the work from the well-observed if sentimental to somewhere healing--and vaguely threatening. --R.T. Castleberry