2018 Laureates’ Choice - Group Three
I’ll give you a call
I put those words in vacant pockets meant
to hold them for a week. Small sparks would shine
within my shadowed world just like a hint
of dreams I dare believe that might be mine.
I fingered dragging hours like beads of some
forgotten rosary. The first few days
were soft enough with thoughts that might become
reality in some romantic ways.
Then silence seeped into my silverware
and even pillows closed their lips in place.
My phone stayed mute while I alone took care
to balance every step with even grace.
I tore the dark in two and only cried
two tears for half-meant lies that I would hide.
Little Rock, AR
A cerulean universe inhabits her mind’s sky,
guiding her quilting needle as it flies
from star to star, each scissored and sewn
from his worn jeans, her Liberty lawn.
As she constellates her galaxy upon its frame,
then interlocks her given name
with his in red embroidery along its edge,
she considers the lesser cosmos of her marriage.
Did astronomers of old feel total certainty
when their armallaries and orreries
confirmed the seductive magnetism spun
by earth’s revolutions and orbit ‘round the sun?
How did they feel when eclipsed by argument?
Did black holes ever needle their firmament?
New York, NY
While rummaging for dinner in the fridge
I faintly hear of famine and of strife,
as evening news doles out a little smidge
of some Somalian losing his life.
I pause to listen while arranging fruit
that likely will be tossed into the trash,
and harken to a tale already moot
about a girl whose life’s reduced to ash.
Continuing to season and sauté
while seeing images of hollow eyes,
I think there’s nothing I can do today
but relish my dessert from House of Pies.
I shrug, acknowledging such dissonance
and knowing well that bliss is ignorance.
Woodland Hills, CA
Chester County age-smooth gray fieldstone,
frigid black sky, full January moon,
thin gouache of snow carelessly thrown
like white paint dribbled from a tablespoon
across the roofs of barns, across the ground.
Locked doors, dark shuttered windows
on houses, unkind wind the only sound,
on unlit porches where no welcome glows.
An achromatic landscape only fit
for childhood memory and one dappled mare
who shuffles in her dreams of meadows, sunlit
and green before the winter blew them bare.
An achromatic landscape fit for death
except for one soft cloud of her warm breath.
In Defense of Formal Poetry
“This sonnet stuff is fake,” my class complains:
emotion crammed unnaturally into schemes
that show how skilled a poet is at games
but not what’s in his heart—his fears and dreams.
Cornered by skeptics, how can I explain
that meter is the pulse of breath and blood
beneath one’s conscious ecstasy and pain,
and helps to make these feelings understood?
Or that emotion, given form, is like a flood
held back by counter-pressures of design:
it pounds the sluice gates harder—better heard
for being obstructed by a wall of rhyme.
The form’s not fake, it’s just a poet’s way
to amplify what he finds hard to say.