A SPLASH OF NAUGATUCK RIVER REVIEW
SOME POEMS FROM THE LAST CONTEST ISSUE
12th Annual Narrative Poetry Contest Winning Poems, judged by Enzo Silon Surin:
First Prize: Jeanne Wagner
for my hairdresser and friend, Gail, whose shop was hit by a runaway car.
She dreams of butterflies now—not sure why.
Maybe their mirrored wings bring it all back:
the guttural sound of a stymied engine; the second
she sees her reflection burst into blades of glass;
a car punching a hole in the wall, like the ones
in comic books, star-shaped, jagged as a fist.
Later she realizes she didn’t even see that hole
before she was pulled down into it, like Alice.
Sucked out of a present in which she’d been
so careful, trimming and beveling the sides,
shaping waves around some stranger’s forehead.
Her life, until then, about how we see ourselves.
Those minor adjustments she performs so well.
Light with its reassuring echo in the mirror.
Later, when she wakes, face down on the floor,
she remembers that it is almost Christmas,
because there are small sprigs of holly berries
lying scattered among the shards of glass,
bowls of bright wrapped candy, spilled now.
Chloe, her old Cairn, whimpering in her basket,
that silly red bow still tied around her neck.
She grabs its sweet body, presses it to her chest,
while her new client weeps quietly and sirens
pour through a space that once was a mirror.
Second Prize: David Meischen
Rain the night before, the cowpen puddled, ankle deep in mud sucking
at my rubber boots, young cow in this pen, her calf weaned away in the next.
Herman danced at the fence, flop-eared pup, best dog we ever had.
Ahead, the cow’s back end, a flashing blur—she startled, who knows why—
her hooves tracing an arc in the light, a muddy smear on my chest, my jaw.
After supper Daddy sat with his hands folded on the table, knuckles
knobby as burls where two fingers were missing. He had news from town.
Neighbor’s boy, thirteen years old. Tractoring a shredder over grain stalks.
Must’ve fallen asleep, Daddy said. Or turned to check the shredder.
Lost his balance. They wouldn’t let his momma into the field.
Herman woke us barking. Outside the bedroom windows, a coiled
rattler, Daddy out the back door with his sixteen-gauge—
sound waves resounding between the house and the butane tank,
the blast in my chest. Awake afterwards, remembering
a family story decades old—Grandma’s sister weeding the garden.
Big snake struck her hoe handle, fang marks at eye level.
In bed for days, Grandma said. Undone. Sick with what if.
Forty years gone from the farm, I wake one night,
nothing left of my dream but the moment that woke
me—my jawbone crunching, brittle bone crumbling
under impact. Odor of rain, mud, manure, hay. My brain
not ready yet to wake, synapses signaling broken, broken, broken.
One morning Herman wasn’t at the back door waiting.
We called and called. No sign of Herman. We found him
beneath a mesquite tree, that lacy dappled shade,
fang marks on his swollen jaw. Herman breathing
his last. Beneath a live oak not twenty yards away, blood-pocked,
a slumped diamondback—roadrunner pecking at her fresh kill.
Third Prize: Catharine Clark-Sayles
What do you say to the woman with the patchwork breast?
As you run fingers down fretwork ribs, along the bow of clavicle,
touch the purled knit of scar in her axilla, note the tiny tattoos –blue,
unlike freckles, burns from the beams have faded into permanent tan.
Move aside the delicate gold chain with its single gray pearl
nestled in the throat hollow, her pulse a fast flutter.
Slip finger tips up the anterior cervical paths to her jaw
then back down the knurled knobs of spine.
Bounce the stitched softball where her body layers firm denial
around the soft give of silicon and saline.
Sense your own breasts hanging heavy
in their sacks of lace and wire, armored, never safe
behind the white starch of coat, your embroidered name.
Remember gratitude for you both that this time,
no lumps, no need to add to the stitched puzzle
of chest and breast that isn’t. What do you say
to the question in her eyes but “No lumps,
your breast is fine, nicely done reconstruction