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The John Robert Doyle, Jr., Prize

Debra Conner “Locked”

Honorable Mentions:



Because he didn't own a car, someone

must have driven my grandfather

to and from the orphanage where he left

my seven year old mother

and her three younger siblings.


My mother said she would always hear

the oak door slam, slamming against

their rented house deep

in a sunless cleft between mountains,

against her father who was broken

by his wife's early death, the loss

of his factory job, the loss

of the furniture the bank repossessed,

leaving them one double bed

where all five of them slept.


I'll never know what my mother thought

that day. Those memories were drained away

by doctors and drugs and treatments.

I only know something numbed her then,

something like the winter wind

that seeped through the floorboards

of their house and was locked

behind a heavy door inside her.

Judge’s Comment:

The winner of The John Robert Doyle Jr. prize is the poem, "Locked", for its use of language to imagine and wonder about the mystery of familial and generational pain.


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