december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 32.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.
for Zach & Laura
It’s like those birds whose name we don’t know
who’ve picked this place in a million pines
in the middle of nowhere in the middle of night
to sit and sing where we can’t see them —
though it isn’t really singing that they do.
What is it? Unearthly tones
from their earthy throats keep time
from pressing down on us too hard —
ghostly metronomes. Of all the lives
I could have picked, I keep on
picking this one. The stars
are scattered buttons from a torn-off shirt;
everything is loosened
or removed. Those birds, and no other sound
save Zach and Laura pulling on their cigarettes,
ice ringing in my nightcap, whatever
makes those burrows in the yard.
No sorrow in the birds
but we hear it. Why say hurtful things?
I love my friends and want them near.
Lawn chairs in the dark.
I remember the benign belligerence of our drunkenness
in Buffalo, where the snow grew old around us
and we were young and lit in the trashcan-tipping night.
Now everything is different.
The night feels fragile as a windpipe.
The whole world dangles
from the roots of the trees.
DISASTER A/VERSION / RE/VISION
In one version, the evening is hot and I ride
my bike to the grocery for emergency
garlic replenishment, waiting carefully at each stoplight
until my phone buzzes in my pocket
in another, it rains and I take the bus downtown to meet Sarah
and my phone rings on the way home
Sometimes the dog at the corner barks as I pass
Sometimes I miss the bus and call Sarah for a lift
In one version I drive all the way to Fernandina
when I’m just supposed to go to the DMV on 39th,
and it’s on my way home that the call
interrupts my music, this could go on,
and it is always evening when I answer, always just before
dark as the phone rings, the word accident
from the tinny speaker always sharp as cut
glass, there I am, always
lifting the phone to my ear [in the fading
straight ahead into a small gust of wind]