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honourable mentions - 2017

Many little midnights by Matt Chamberlain

I don't really know
if they're blueberries, bilberries or sloes
but they grow in the corners of my eyes as I slide
down muddy paths that looked straighter
in the height of summer. They linger, less obvious
than the April blossom, or the hedgerow's summer socks
fashioned from cow parsley lace, looming only
in October when they softly sing plush hymns.

One day we crunched
across fields in time with a rifle crack,
our pickings more plentiful than those
of the faithful gundog, bemused at
his master's rotary machine which lured no pigeons
but attracted our mirth. On we picked. And on
our return we made something we called gin
although we didn't really care
whether the ingredient was blueberries, bilberries or sloes.

They are hard to describe, being
well towards the darker end of indigo
yet somehow also lax white powder-coated —
blown smoke masking many little midnights.
I wonder whether this is all designed
to get me to look at them more, and,
sidestepping well-stagnated puddles, I do. They look
like jelly babies' faces, swept chalkboards, talcum-coated squash balls.

If I removed a glove and licked a finger, I could
write my name on them, but inch long javelins keep them
pure. More contained than grasping brambles,
these scythed chariot wheels rumble through
my potholed afternoons. Comforting, familiar,
they seem to matter; though I do not much mind
if they are blueberries, bilberries or sloes.

Ode to Ottsville by Christina Thatcher

After Sierra DeMulder

I want waffle-cones from the Cherry Top
drive-through which overlooks the puppy mill.

I want to zoom zoom in a rusted Chevy truck
to the small store with the rabbits' alfalfa.

I want to splash barefooted in Tohickon creek,
feel a hundred toe-hungry tadpoles wriggling.

I want to walk, belly hot in summer, to the corner shop,
buy ice pops and soda from the too-high counter.

I want to be driven to the place where the trees hang
so low the world disappears behind them.

I want to pick out weeding gloves in Werhung's,
the smell of tire rubber stiff in my nose.

I want the saturated, cool blue of a too-early morning,
the sound of sleeping hens' soft cooing.

I want the feel of a hose-downed horse, the fatness
of a sudsy sponge in my hand.

I want the thick readiness of saddle soap in my pocket,
leather oil soaking into my fingers.

I want to watch speckled fawns surfacing, unsteady
from the woods, to graze with their mothers.

I want to pluck plump blackberries from back pastures,
their juice staining my unwashed mouth for days.

I want that time again when geese were a child's only enemy,
when fear was just bats emerging from the paddock barn.

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