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.

Climbing between
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.
Our imaginations

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.