Third Prize: The Light at Dusk; Pines
The Light at Dusk
We were boys, my friend
and I, stripping down
beside the bed
in his parents’ guest room.
the moth-thin sheets,
we pretended there
were girls waiting for us.
Already we expected
the world. Outside,
under a sulfur colored sky,
his father smoked out
gophers. A buck
beat its gnawed antlers
against a hazelnut trunk.
failed us as we reached
through the phantom bodies
in the bed, and found one
another. It was tenderness,
then, and when we never
spoke of it, the slated light
spilling across the far wall.
In the five days after her suicide
I sat in my mind’s flooded fields.
Too-thin and rib-lined, crabgrass
and dead brush bedding my back,
I looked through the last crown
of arched pine. I used to need
answers, now so little offers consolation.
Salted wind. Sunlight in winter.
I have the trees, and I have speech
which comes so close only to turn
away. Blackened pine branches bend
against the sky. I, too, know
how the wound of mania widens
on the skull’s furthest wall, letting
the world at once become too large,
and too beautiful. Until my nose bled,
repeatedly, I used to hit myself.
Not an angry child, it was a way to see
more of myself, to mark the landscape
of my own body. The fists of poppies
are opening. Each branch silhouettes
the aberrations in my character.
They look finger-thin as if I could reach
toward them and they would reach back
to me. The smell of pine pitch has
become a precursor only to a burning.