Judge Heather Altfeld has selected the winners of the eleventh annual Littoral Press Poetry Prize. Christy Shepard’s poem “Cento for William Stafford: The Darkness Around Us Is Deep” is the overall winner; she will receive an edition of 50 copies of her poem printed as a letterpress broadside. Honorable mentions go to Rachel Michaud, for “The Remedy,” and to Alan Bern, for “Boxae” and “speak speak.” Congratulations to all three! Their poems can be read below.
A very deep thank you to the judge and to all who entered the contest.
Cento For William Stafford
The Darkness Around Us Is Deep
World, I am your slow guest
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
whatever is near, come close
deep, the way it is,
with fear, with wonder, with prayers.
I like to live in the sound of water,
each day a treasured unimportance.
My stride is for life, a far place.
Around any corner, my sight is a river.
I have been over the water,
with the grace of it all.
Birds fly here without sound,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.
These journeys are quiet,
in the dark hours when others sleep,
the night wind unwilling to rest,
little gems of darkness, the world
Meanwhile the big sadness hangs on.
What you fear will not go away,
the whisper that runs every day
in your mind. We must go back
with noses and the palms of our hands
and let the whole self drift like a breath and lean
through the white sky.
It will take you into yourself
with all the softness that truth requires.
Another rapid child fills
a shoe box up with sand and
thinks each grain a voice:
how it is to talk to you.
When I whisper in your ear,
this is what hears:
an under-sleeping window
A human echocave : Ear
of Dionysius, stone deaf.
Fixed Black Box who speaks in zero
hears messages to the dead.
I hang on to your aside face
by tearing off my last nail:
where are you traveling? In place
of love, I drip the blood pail.
let us learn from the stones
a cheek a face
what likeness once could mean
the other foot
cold granite steps frozen
in death’s wounds
and the living’s
the dead read
though may not hear
Coming from the capital
we find an herbal remedy:
bee balm, flowering milkweed.
The trees refuse to march
and the sun and the rain rule.
Instead of barbed wire, thistle.
No walls but these fallen down stones
marking the edge of the field.
Not a siren, just the crow’s call.
That rat-a-tat-tat is a semi-automatic
No lies, just doves cooing
that we will sleep in soft beds tonight.
The stars will shine
and the red-winged blackbirds
keep watch around the pond.
Let seeds be the only refugees,
and the travelers, bear and bobcat,
expanding their range.
Let our wealth be today, and tomorrow
these hay bales to stack in the barn.
We are soldiers on leave.
May berries, not blood, stain our hands.