Daniel Lassell – Runner-Up
From yellow ribbons of painted asphalt,
which curved river-like through darkness,
I scooped the baby owl fallen from its nest,
left for angry bumpers
drumming down the mountain into town.
How the creature was, wrapped with a towel,
with its one eye like a tired doll,
half-shut from impact, peeping for its mother.
When it hunched in a cardboard box,
the earth was in its breathing. When it fanned open
both eyes, those fiery and endless windows
through which the core of the earth looks back,
I wished with a single flap I’d gone
with it over the silent mountain into the night.
Whitney Mackman – Finalist
Isle de Jean Charles
Too quiet: nothing
but wind whipping
through stilted bones
someone once called home.
I look over my shoulder;
I’m trespassing on sacred land.
Behind the sugar cane,
behind the levee system,
deep down in the swamps
a quarter mile wide,
mile and a half long isle
surrenders to sink.
Too bright: squinting
to stay inside cones
on the shrinking
It’s only a matter of time
until the Gulf swallows it whole.
Marsh becomes bayou
becomes a new backyard.
Look away, lose an inch.
Just build it higher.
Just balance on stilts.
Janine Certo – Finalist
Loving Them for the Awe of It
In the whir of housing, we slipped
on aprons—their bibs branded
with claws, each one pointing its finger.
A line snaked the restaurant. Clowns
twisted balloon to creature while we served
sautées & bisque, imperial & cake.
Long after, we clutched neon tumblers,
breathed from a passed bottle. I swayed
the night guard so we could sit on the same
cement where we toiled, felt
somehow authorized to the key
lime pie, the still warm bin of rolls.
We ran to a black ocean, its beach
dotted with side-walkers, flickering
blue carapace, antennae & eye,
not minding them for our jollity,
amassing them in bucket. We broke
into the apartment of cooks who lived
above us. One by one, I arced
the crustaceans, sand-dredged,
into their shower. Only to be wakened
later to a rage. The boys pounded
our door. They shattered our window.
We heard a tic and scurry on our floor.
In the morning, the sadness of the animals’
confusion, drifting past table legs on an unknown
coast. It was the year we saw the Ferris wheel
on fire—spokes churning a carnival air,
casting glow on the castles, castles to sky.
I remember how we poured them all back to the sea;
how I saved not one cent that summer;
how I drove a car in the wrong lane.