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The Starkey Flythe, Jr., Memorial Prize:

Debra Conner "Legacy"

Honorable Mentions:

Lisa Sloan; Ruth ILG

"Legacy" by Debra Conner

Mornings, my brother's hands shook,

his coffee sloshing from cup to floor,

a signal that he needed a glass of wine,

a couple of beers, before he could hold

his car keys steady enough to start his pickup

and drive along the river to work.

My father drove the same road in his gray VW van,

buying peaches or watermelons to sell

or wandering all day past cornfields and smokestacks,

drinking from a bottle on the seat beside him.

At fourteen, my brother caught the car keys

my father tossed him, and the two of them

drove snowy mountain roads to a hunting cabin,

giving my father a few hours to kill

a bottle of Seagrams wrapped in a brown paper bag.

They never unpacked their guns.

Sometimes, I wince when I hear

the crackle of stiff paper,

my father dead at sixty,

my brother, now sober, his liver ruined.

I think of how my mother

gathered bottles from under the kitchen sink,

tossing them in paper bags and carrying them

to metal cans in the back yard, the glass rattling,

playing a jingle all of us could sing.

Judge’s Comment:

"Legacy" weaves a potent intergenerational narrative, using intentional lines and sentences while making mundane images anew, inviting us to rethink what we inherit.

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