The Marjorie E. Peale Prize
The given life
We live the given life, and not the planned.
Straddle the floating dock
for no other purpose than pitch
and sway, rise and flow of
water in cahoots with the moon.
Notice a dart of light,
back fin of a rising mullet
marsh grass bent but not giving way
twitching nose of the dog
sprawled on the salty plank. There’s a man
down the creek with his dog, he’s smoking, and the air
carries the scent of his own waiting; anxious,
he lights another cigarette.
The water moves at its own pace
alerts me to my own impotence, unnecessary to the life
all around me, life whose ebb and flow
do and undo me.
The night heron ignore me, the wrinkling ducks,
an alarmed egret flaps from the tree as the osprey swoops in.
The rooster screeches from across the way.
The sun strikes the edge of the marsh bank,
shining the mud. It will now begin its own warming creep
across the scene. There is a settling in
that is my unsettling, and I am grateful for it;
that this world will not let me have my own way with it.
That I cannot turn the ebb
cannot command the sun to wait a few minutes.
It is a gift to behold the water gush and suck
and see what is left clinging to surfaces
Comment by the Judge: The language in this poem has its own pitch and sway, which immediately draws me in to sit a spell and ponder life as it arises. I deeply enjoy the speaker's voice and their observations about the world around them and the world within. The poet’s choice of the Berry epigraph is perfect, and the poem fully lives up to the quote. A lovely poem!
Honorable mentions: Danielle Verwers, Debra Daniel