Posted June 1, 2020.

2020 Spring Contest Winners: Poet’s Choice: 3rd Place Winner

Mind Gloss

David Hedges

Mind in its purest play is like some bat

That beats about in caverns all alone,

Contriving by a kind of senseless wit

Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

—Richard Wilbur, from “Mind”

Mind in its purest play is like some bat

That magically connects with knuckleballs.

No matter what the pitching staff contrives,

Changeup, slider, inside curve, the calls

Result in singles, doubles, triples, drives

Across the outfield fence that knock the hat

Off some poor unsuspecting fan who sprawls

The asphalt, all aghast. The pitcher strives

To fry the batters in a pan of fat.

Mind in its purest play is like some bat

That beats about in caverns all alone,

More like a horde of happy-hour drunks

That beats about in taverns, or a batch

Of cracker-barrel clowns, a bunch of monks,

Pure intellection at a coffee klatch

Replete with undercut and overtone,

Final exams that everybody flunks,

Leading scholars, in a fit, to scratch

Advancement from their list of goals. The drone

That beats about in caverns all alone,

Contriving by a kind of senseless wit

What targets to home in on, thrives on fear;

The weave and flitter draw a steady stream

Of ready answers, none of which is clear.

Prescient ones are poised to skim the cream;

Resplendent to their heart’s content, they flit

About the blackest air until their Lear

Jets’ landing gears explode—a primal scream

On impact after guidance systems quit—

Contriving by a kind of senseless wit

Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

Mind’s more a metaphor for catcher’s mask,

Deflecting fouls that otherwise might force

Professors to object, and take to task

Doubtful similes for changing course:

Wading knee-deep in the Twilight Zone,

Benighted, tippling from a pocket flask,

Concocting gobbeldygook without remorse.

Mind plots with grace to overthrow the throne,

Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

Poet Bio

David Hedges has placed poems with Poetry, Measure, Poet Lore, and others. His book, “Prospects of Life After Birth: Memoir in Poetry and Prose,” appeared in 2019. He is past president of the Oregon Poetry Association, and serves on the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission. He co-founded the Oregon Poetry Collection at the University of Oregon’s Knight Library, and received the 2003 Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to the state’s literary life.

Judge’s Comments – Lynn Otto

Thank you to all who submitted poems. Reading them while practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I felt connected to humanity in all corners of Oregon and beyond. I was surprised to see that the three poems that rose to the top of the stack for me all made use of patterns of rhyme and rhythm. “Mind Gloss” (four stanzas that follow the rhyme scheme abcbcabcaa, each beginning and ending with a line from a stanza of Richard Wilbur’s “Mind”) feels like a carefully made gift, not some fussy frou-frou thing, but the result of a real craftsperson’s sensitivity to language and high regard for the reader. The poem’s form suits its subject, a playful, musical riffing. These poems’ images are strong and memorable; and each poem felt consistent in quality from beginning to end.

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