Opening the Letter

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, November 2021
Judged by Terence Culleton

The heart at rest after its last beat.

The words still clutched in hand
squirm and stagger
through their awkward emotions.

It’s always this way.
No matter how many times the paper is unfolded,
the scene played out in imagination.

Outside wild turkeys glean corn stubble,
scratch their hieroglyphs into moist soil
for the young foxes to decipher.

From the back of pickups
hunters spotlight anything that glows back,
teaching their sons how to be men.

Bats dart between the glittering insects
to where night flows like a river
into an infinite abyss.

The moon spills its blood
across yellow pine floors
where cold feet lie in laceless boots.

And you are lost here, lost
within the memories of an unworthy survivor
searching the graffiti-filled catacombs of your mind.

Somewhere amid these lies you’ll find an everlasting truth.

The indeterminateness of the narrative situation is counterbalanced by the vivid language of the third through sixth triplet stanzas, which are tight and evocative, achieving a powerful interplay between imagery and statement. The stylistic performance in these stanzas is grounded in nouns and verbs that are concrete or metaphorical, rather than abstract. Turkeys “glean corn stubble” and “scratch their hieroglyphs.” There are “pickups” and “glittering insects” and a moon that “spills” blood around “laceless boots.” The writing in these stanzas is particularly fine, evocative of a sadness and confusion that are deeply felt. --Terence Culleton