2018 Fall Contest, Members Only, 1st Place Winner

Searching for the True Gesture #2
by Joshua Boettiger

My Grandfather has my mother sit
on her hands so she can learn to talk
without gesticulating. She grows up
and becomes a dancer.

I flail like a man without a piñata,
who senses there might be one nearby.
I reach for things elsewhere—
the perfect wife, the perfect place,
the perfect work. The reaching
is like a beautiful dance.

Before proposing, I ask
the Brazilian grandmothers
for their blessing in the back
of the taxi-van as we drive out of Rio.
Speaking no Portuguese.
Making ribbons with my hands
near my heart. Failing marvelously.


Judge’s comments
The winning poem, “Searching for the True Gesture #2” deftly and tenderly draws attention to three different ways that humans “speak.” The poem invites the reader to follow its own journey of discovery, and the pace of this discovery feels perfectly comfortable, so that the reader is not rushed to anticipate a pre-conceived conclusion, but can participate in as well as follow the links that come together amazingly in the last stanza.
—Anita Sullivan

Joshua Boettiger’s poems and essays have appeared in Parabola, San Pedro River Review, and Zeek. He is a contributing author to the forthcoming anthology, Neither Here Nor There: The Many Voices of Liminality. He teaches poetry at Southern Oregon University’s Young Artists Institute, and at workshops through the Oregon Poetry Association. He is also a rabbi, a teacher of Mussar (Jewish Ethics) and Meditation, and a timber-framer. He lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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