2019 Spring Contest Winner: 1st Place, Poet’s Choice


by Jennifer Dorner

Halfway across the bridge,

       where cranes punctuate the air,


I regard the skyline

       I’ve been taught to believe in.


I’m holding on

       to the smell of the rain; I mean


I left the city

       and keep leaving, apologizing


for what I’ve done,

       ghosting into some small town


to bury my wishes

       in boxes and count the raindrops,


five—tiny nothingness

       against the glass. Pinpricks


like the metal tacks

       on a restaurant wall dotting color


across a printed map

       where I trace the old street names,


east of the freeways,

       and pin my familiar square corner


of blue.


Judge’s comments

“Maps”, which won me over immediately, dressed its clean, simple bones with deceptively complex and highly metaphorical images. “I’m holding on / to the smell of rain.” Such a humble line. Such a profoundly emotional sentiment. “I left the city / and keep leaving, apologizing / for what I’ve done.” What the narrator has done isn’t stated. It isn’t important. We’ve all done things we should be sorry for. “Maps” radiates uncertainty and love, guilt and forgiveness, internal and external landscapes. It blisters, scorches, and heals in 21 short lines, each word carrying its own weight and the weight of the entire poem.

—John Sibley Williams

Poet bio

Jennifer Dorner’s poetry has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Cloudbank, Sugar House Review, Timberline Review, The Inflectionist Review, Verseweavers, and VoiceCatcher. She was a finalist in the 2016 Ruth Stone Poetry Prize and a finalist for the 2018 Hedgebrook Writers in Residence Program. She is an MFA student at Pacific University.

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