The Bobby Kennedy Memorial Prize:

Winner:  Frances Pearce

Redbirds

A hollow log slumbers on the floor

of this place that’s less deep forest,

 

more ancient swamp. Above, a redbird

signals his mate; within the branches

 

of a sweetgum, she’s built a nest

of twigs and twilight. The girl starts

 

out walking with her sisters, but ends

up alone. Hopping from fallen tree

 

to fallen tree, she manages to stay clear

of tea-colored water. She listens

 

for the redbird’s trill and follows

it to a cypress grove beside a curvy

 

unpaved road. She trails the road past

the crooked pine, where moonshiners

 

and jacklighters hide their trucks, to the

now-decaying house her father lived in

 

as a child. The girl disregards the terrible

scolding her grandmother unleashes.

 

Years later, when she is a grandmother

living hundreds of miles away, that dirt

 

road will show up again and again in her

dreams. And whenever she tends the lily

 

patch in her back garden, redbirds

will flock to the live oak and sing.

Judge Comments: A wandering girl carries the rhythm of the poem through pleasantries of nature despite a reality she does not care for while her older self embraces the ripples of these memories, her loneliness filled by the title fowl. The poem shows the power of connection and reflection on simple things and simpler times.

Honorable Mentions:  Harold Oberman