top of page

The Marjorie E. Peale Prize Winner:

Ashley Crout

Honorable Mentions:

: Mary Louise Hudson, Brian Slusher


We inhabit Edisto in a borrowed house

one row backwards from the eroding beach.

The pale scent of the sand soaked in brine

gathers in my mouth. I swallow the hazed

heavens each predawn morning, waiting

for the sun to lift the boiling blush of its face

over the flat edge of the ocean. Its horizon line

defines where the sky either begins or ends us all.

The edges of insistent light have the gentleness

of a room as quiet and delicate as an infant asleep.

For a season my face is flushed with a sky

empty of everything but a blistering glare.

I glow like an ember all night, sleep restlessly

in my own ashes. My father speaks distantly

of the unsalted rivers that curve into the sea

and a landlocked boat he had once that rotted

its wood and rusted its rudder in dry inland grasses.

I did not expect pelicans the color of a cold night

to lower so close to the hiss and roar of this water

that pulls the particles of the shore to the floor

of the ocean, then returns them, then returns

for them again. Nothing headless changes its mind.

This is just a pattern like the migration of birds

whose flight follows the shifts in weather.

I did not expect flocks of pelicans to lower

their deep pocketed beaks beneath the waterline

and feed on the sea, these predator creatures.

This is how innocents kill in innocence. All

is instinct—what is done and will be done,

what began in the first doings of the world.

Judge’s Comment:

A gentle meditation on a scene that travels deep into memory with exquisite line breaks and just the degree of description to lull the reader. All is dynamic action, reverent sensation, with sonic textures that allow anyone who has loved beaches to relate to this very specific spot

bottom of page