The Starkey Flythe, Jr., Memorial Prize:
Debra Conner "Legacy"
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.
"Legacy" weaves a potent intergenerational narrative, using intentional lines and sentences while making mundane images anew, inviting us to rethink what we inherit.