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The Klyde Robinson Poetry Prize Winner:

Ashley Crout

Honorable Mentions:

Frances Pearce, Brian Slusher


Careful not to want more than what’s coming

to you. You could end up with nothing. There’s

the lesson the still stubborn Southern states,

a prime number of them, refused to learn.


They wanted a country all to themselves.

They wanted freedom from freeing the slaves

stolen from their homes to be owned, owned.


Even behind enemy lines, I am still Southern.

The rocking chair calls a truce when the fighting

light has left the stink of crepe myrtle and the rotting

barn. Where the stalled horses are ever restless.

They smell the storm years coming, years gone.


I rock back and return these liminal nights, my body

the decided weight. I grieve my necessary flight

across the Mason Dixon line – grieve blue as Union

issue, grieve red as civil war. I can either stay down

or lift out of the steady dread that once broke

over me in my home of origin daily like dawn.


This is the battle I will die fighting, dredging down

into a history that happened without me, and the red

dirt sifts through like a Confederate hourglass.

I collect clods of mud, the unkillable roots

of kudzu vine. Maybe that’s what faith is –

accepting your losses. Pushing a glass off the table

and hoping some force will stop the shatter.


Years after that battle over one country, I war

against myself, hell desperate to live in victory

over where my roots are buried – the healing

coast of the god sea, the thick scent of the marsh.


I recognize myself in the Charleston cannons

built facing their own fort. And to claim land,

Sherman drove his army into the sea.

Judge’s Comment:

A haunting, eloquent poem that manages to capture the pitfalls and complexities of the Southern experience. I am still thinking about some lines, the poem invites constant reconsideration of its subject and itself

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