2018 Laureates’ Choice - Group Two
The Dreaming House
The children who grew in that house now dark,
who rambled over field and sunbright hill,
are gone to shadowed streets. They left their mark
beside the stone-bound path. The air is still.
One morning there will come the song of birds
to break the silent revery of night;
unspoken thoughts give birth to living words
as larks and sparrows in their joy take flight.
And then the long-locked door at last shall creak
upon its hinge. The wind will stir the dust
that lingers on the sill. The walls will speak
as light falls on the quick and on the just.
This is the dream that murmured, ages gone —
Our end is not in twilight, but in dawn.
W. Luther Jett
Washington Grove, MD
Bookworm, A Fragment
Bader’s Drugstore on Kercheval and Gray,
Where I first saw books by Mickey Spillane
And the nude Marilyn issue of Play-
Boy, before puberty drove me insane,
While I still loved the Monteith Library
And the toasted paper smell of old books,
Hugh Lofting, Robert Heinlein, no Harry
Potter for decades yet to come, with nooks
Where I could sit amid the scent of wax
Polish at leather-topped tables, no cares
Except homesickness for Scotland, in Pax
Libris, then return to our place upstairs
From the greasy tavern, three books in hand,
A ten-year-old stranger in a strange land.
Reaching. strangling down. Suffocating.
Inhale. Exhale. Ropes, squeezing my insides.
Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Heart beats quick. Pulsating.
Sickly sweet smell. Putrid like pesticides.
Patiently she stares at my still full plate
Hers empty already; she scoffed it down.
She begins to speak, or rather, debate.
I pick up my fork; she drops her small frown.
Closer and closer. It reaches my lips
I chew and swallow. My stomach protests
this food that has no squatter’s rights.
Food gone, residing for a brief moment’s rest.
I kneel over porcelain, throat searingly numb,
Dinner reappears. The ritual is done.
Seeing Her Way
A month ago she peered beyond the wheel
she gripped and saw she’d have to let it go;
last spring she knew she really didn’t feel
quite strong enough to make a garden grow.
And recently she’d let her daughter take
the checkbook; she was weary of subtraction
and squinting. But at least she still could bake
her famous peach pie, and take satisfaction
in doing crosswords, minding her son’s kids,
and meeting Ruthie and Maxine to play
mahjong or bridge (despite their timid bids).
That blur beyond the wheel had spoiled her day,
but she’d seen more than that; she understood
she had to make the choices she still could.
Tonight the latest April sky, a sky
I rarely venture out to see, is filled
with smallish change: a quarter moon and stars
like dimes that spend their tiny light on eyes
a million billion miles away. But still,
with her away, they do not seem as far.
If I could fly away, or fly at all
—had wing enough or wind enough—I’d fly
across the empty miles of senseless air
to where I know she waits, and then I’d fall
like starlight, lightly, kiss her face and eyes
and never fly away again from there.
We cannot stay, but always we must go;
the home we seek’s the only home we know.