The Marjorie E. Peale Prize

Louise Weld

The given life

We live the given life, and not the planned.

Wendell Berry

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