Posted December 5, 2019.

2019 Fall Contest Winner: Theme—Our Common Life, 2nd Place

Abatement

by Suzy Harris

Against this hundred-year house,

ladders rise up from one story to the next,

and the paint is scraped away, bit by bit,

exposing raw boards to the bright August sun.

Men covered in white suits call back and forth

like in a church, call and response.

They build a chapel of blue tarps

to catch all the shaved paint,

catch and remove, and we pray

the lead dust is not hanging in the air,

burrowing into our children’s lungs,

sinking into the soil around the fig tree.

Judge’s comments

I chose this poem for the writer’s ability to use the common theme of home repair to take us into the gravity of children inhaling lead dust. This was an unexpected twist and it gave the poem more depth and a higher purpose. One should be able to predict its “weight” from the title, but I was surprised and I very much liked the surprise!

—Toni Lumbrazo Luna

Poet bio

Suzy Harris was born and raised in Indianapolis as the fifth of seven siblings. She has lived her adult life in Portland, OR and is a retired attorney. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Calyx, Clackamas Literary Review, Kosmos, Oyster River Pages, Rain, Third Wednesday, Williwaw Journal, Windfall, and various anthologies.

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