(receieved Honorable Mention in the Kay N. Saunders Memorial New Poet category)
Do you remember afternoons
dumping out the can of coins
and counting them with dad?
Ten pennies made a tower;
a wall of ten, a dollar.
He did nickels, dimes, and quarters.
I was the princess of pennies.
After hours of counting,
came the delicate task
of stacking the copper
flat in the wrappers.
He said little fingers
were good for that,
the neat, crisp folding
of the sleeves.
I loved those rolls in my hand,
their shape and heft had power.
We strode together
and traded them for treasure
down at the corner. Beer for him
and a Hershey bar for me.
Now, I take my coins to the bank,
willy-nilly in a can.
Down the chute they go.
No time spent, no towers.
Minutes later, the teller returns
with the empty container
and I go to my car,
a little bit poorer,
my pocket full of dollars.
(received 2nd place in the "Theme" category)
I ride the train past fields and fallen houses
that sit together like watchdogs in the snow.
Barns lay their backs against the hills to sleep
and silos stand saluting the machine.
The train takes no heed of what they know;
runs past them like a hand
passing over weeds. I trace the lines of my hand,
familiar lines, like wood grain in an old house.
Train of people, bound by paper bags. I know
our eggshells cover the floor like snow.
We chew our yolks as one, our teeth a machine
that turns and grinds even as we sleep.
I cover my face with sleep
and let the train carry me in sure hands.
I am no match for the laws of machines
or the pipes and wires of my house.
No match for ocean, stars, or snow,
why we breathe or how we know
our purpose. Though we ought to know
the reason that we dream. Is sleep
an empty field that waits to fill with snow?
What happens if I take you by the hand
and lead you through the rooms of my house?
This journey we call love, a strange machine.
You see, the heart is also a machine:
its auto-pump always going. It knows
the soft chambers of its fleshy house.
Faithful to this sturdy muscle, I dare to sleep,
buzz like a willful beetle in a closed hand,
grope my way, a traveler blinded by snow.
We can build mountains, cover them with snow
but no one has yet invented a machine
that can duplicate the lines of my hand.
Familiar lines, laid for a train that knows
the dream, when night falls and we go to sleep
safe under blankets in houses.
Sometimes, when it snows, I gaze exhausted, and think I know
how to muscle the machine. I awake refreshed from sleep;
cup all this goodness in my hand: trains, fields, hearts, houses.