2017 Top Three Winners
This field in winter forms a wetland, quiet
except for hushing rainfall, rushing hail,
a breeze that, fussed with snowflakes, seems to sigh at
the calls of robin, chickadee, and quail,
and swishing noises as a buck picks through
a copse of wild roses, red with thorns,
briar stems, and rose-hips, which he’ll chew
as velvet slowly silences his horns.
And then the frogs! These mud-lark choristers,
raucous for amplexus, now rejoice—
last night we heard no chirrups, chirps, or chirrs;
tonight they’d overwhelm a stentor’s voice—
and, swamping winter with their song, they bring
good news: the year is sound, and crouched to spring.
Qualicum Beach, BC
The deconstructed body shares its alphabet:
A for acid. B for bile. And C for cyst–
or cirrhosis. It’s simply a trick so your head won’t spin.
Just focus: Arterial tube. Bread knife. Curved curette.
The heart may be contracted like an angry fist,
still hiding essential secrets, but, before you unpin
and strip off the outer parchment, before you apply
the Stryker saw, rib cutters or start the Y-
incision, look at what’s written on the skin.
Moles strung in an ellipsis? Jaundiced? Sun-kissed?
These creases–laugh-lines? Or gullies of regret?
All clues to how it weathered and where it’s been.
Then double-check: if the mirror shows a mist
of breath, there’s a little life in the old bones yet.
If I had known you in another time
and caught the wistful smile, the abstruse glance
you send my way in earnest, knowing I’m
vulnerable and open to the chance
we could break free together on a ride
into the clouds, above the grinding rack
of life’s oppressive tedium, and glide
forever on the sky and not come back . . .
I would have galloped by on Pegasus
and without stopping, swung you up behind.
Adventure might light flames in both of us.
But I’m a fool – and you, alas, are blind –
To think that we could capture such a whim,
since I am chained to her, and you to him.
N. Colwell Snell