2017 Laureates’ Choice - Group Two
The world’s largest organism is dying.
Some say new growth could save this silver-green
rootstalk topped by quaking, shield-shape leaves—
gust struck, they drop and plate the slope. Skin
soft enough to carve with a dull key
or pocket knife as JOHNNY ’12 has done
near other bark-scarred names. Google it:
you’ll learn the aspen share a knotted heart.
The Latin translates as “I spread.” Scroll down.
You’ll notice Pando makes poor firewood but fine
paper, first-rate saunas, where JOHNNY ’12
can sweat near KYLE ’01—strangers loined
by small, white towels at a luxury hotel.
Cracks along the grain, disease. TRUMP
engraved on rotten trunks. Also,
Bombs in the Night
Tarballs on beaches, blackouts every night
meant battles at sea and German subs near shore.
My English pen pal was taken from the sights
of bombers wreaking havoc on innocents of war.
The man who pumped gas at the Pegasus sign
was arrested, tried, and convicted, a Nazi spy.
Our fathers gone, my friend’s was killed in France,
while mine, a doctor, was safe behind the lines,
dividing the sick from those too scared to fight.
I dreamed of bombs and fires across the fields,
the creatures of nearby woods in frantic flight,
and invented a ritual to shield me from fear,
to assure my father’s safe return, a rite
that endures to prevent the return of bombs in the night.
Black and White
The story came out early yesterday.
Again, the body of a young black man
caught up in some inconsequential fray,
was bagged up, lifeless – loaded in a van.
Had he not – out of fear – tried to defend
his right to live, he might be breathing still.
Or had his skin been white, the story’s end,
statistically, would not include a kill.
Once more, the country tries to understand
this fatal flaw in our collective will –
that fails to redirect the heavy hand
of justice, to correct what shames us still.
We hide behind the darkness of closed minds
while in the light, our children lose their lives.
Saint Paul, MN
Leaving the Parking Lot, I Pass a Homeless Man
only drowning men could see him
—“Suzanne,” Leonard Cohen
He waits in bee’s bliss and coyote mint.
Ankle-high shrubs crowd the center divide
where the road from the coffee shop slants
into a swell of traffic lights, a flood tide
of turn signals. His hair is dirty, off-white,
knotted at the back. His face sun-weathered.
It’s easy to miss him. The way he waits
as if a shrub or small tree. His eyes feather
the passersby. Blue jeans ragged, a mess
of broken fingernails edging cardboard,
lifting it chest high. Its message: God bless.
Sometimes I look away, silent and hard.
Sometimes I nod, greet him, pass a bill.
Always I see him—as the drowning always will.
The table held an origami bird.
My grandma Mai had fashioned it for me.
The beauty which defied descriptive word
was part of my ancestral artistry.
It was the work the ancient masters knew
whose beauty mesmerized the viewer’s eye
at how each piece was folded straight and true.
I, too, was made from proven stock, though shy,
with shape from ancient Edo timber gene
and rounded-face, complexion dyed in red--
a mix of Japanese and States’ Marine
with bowl-cut raven locks upon my head.
Grandma says I am what they were seeking
and perfect, biologically speaking.