Posted September 10, 2018.

2017 Spring Contest, Theme – Oregon/Pacific NW: 1st Place Winner

These poems were submitted for the spring 2017 contest themed category judged by Charles Goodrich, but were omitted from Verseweavers 22. Any future reprints of Verseweavers 22 will include the Oregon/Pacific Northwest category. They will also be Included in the upcoming Verseweavers 23 to be published late spring 2019.

 

Effigy of a Man
by Nancy Christopherson

What if, for
instance, thoughts flew from your mind
like seagulls crying for fish entrails
near a fisherman’s vessel at noon, fog
rolling in. Wouldn’t these be open.
Watch their wings. The boat
rocking gently on swells. Your name
could be Ahab or Ivan or Giovanni,
you might live in Havana
or Vancouver or Odessa. You could
be seventeen or seventy-five. Your sweater
could be dry or smeared with offal.
What can the nets bring toward you. What
might they reveal you don’t already know,
intimately. Your friend at home in his
clean apron setting the small table. Maybe
your mother. The gulls swing and curl
in the mist while the waves slap at
the planks, splash upward in spray.
You toss the bucket skyward.
The gulls swoop in, cry with greedy delight.
This is your one life and you know it.
This evening when you get in
you will scrape out under your fingernails
with your pocket knife, light
the bonfire, watch it burn.

Judge‘s comment: “Thoughts like seagulls” is promising; “thoughts chasing fish entrails” is exceptional. (How humbling to acknowledge our thoughts are carrion eaters.) From there, the playful / serious working out of the hypothesis is intriguing. And, given that the poem is supposed to be a “Pacific Northwest” poem, I like how it quickly flings the geography into the larger realm of imagination. (Aside: ornithologists quarrel with the term “seagull” since there are several gull species that frequent the seashores, and many of them are just as happy far inland.)

Nancy Christopherson lives and writes in eastern Oregon. She is the author of one volume of poetry, The Leaf (2015). Some of her recent poems appear in Helen: A Literary Journal, and in Xanadu Poetry. She is currently at work on three new manuscripts entitled “Canyon Poems,” “While the Moon Floats Ranch,” and “Lungfish Swallow Me Whole.” Visit nancychristophersonpoetry.com

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