2007 First Prize
Mornings he lies under the bridge
pretending the sky is black—
and when boys stand atop the bridge, making wishes,
eyes pinched closed,
flicking pennies into ripples of the river,
he dips his hand into the water to catch them—
and when a penny slides
through his fingers, slinking into sand,
there is no going after it.
Sometimes he sits on the bench
and begs under the dogwood twisting
through the concrete. And a boy sits next to him.
He asks, got what you wanted, didn’t you?
(even when there is nothing worth looking for)
and the boy says mister?
and he says well, as long as you got what you wanted.
And, together, the two of them watch
a woman, tall and beautiful, walk into
the liquor store on the corner, and walk out
with a bottle of red wine:
and her hair—black as sky, twisted like dogwood,
her eyes glistening like pennies.
And he says, you know that lady in there,
what’s her name, that little lady from the liquor store?
and the boy says it’s all on the other side
but the wind carries her off.
And he rolls back his head, the sun shining in his eyes,
as if it were the only answer
the world could give.