2018 – 1st place


 By David Stones

  Each spring he works the south pasture

and thinks only of dying

of Annie moved to the front room

beneath the painting of the barn in summer

her hands no longer fluttering

but china white and still

like butterflies resting on flowers.

When the calves totter blinking into new dawn

he thinks of his sons and daughters

no longer willing or able

to liberate life from the laughing clay

gone now to the jeweled cities

he can sometimes hear thrashing against the night

their fierce hammers of vanity.

At harvest amid the severed arithmetic of stubble

limned with gold and endings

he wonders how many bushels

and how many pecks how many rainbows

how many apples heavy on the boughs

before the fireflies flicker and the moon sets

over meadows starless and immense as blackboards.

And in winter when he dreams

it is a dream of Annie’s hands

and he is at once the butterfly

symmetrical on a gas blue petal

pondering in the vast unfeeling garden

the tangles of his landscapes

life’s pull to stay   life’s push to leave.

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