HeartWood Broadside Series 2016 Winner
Gratitude to this year's judge: Diane Gilliam
With a Thousand-Tongued Hunger
Sunset at our campsite, and you kneel,
faith healer to feeble embers of fire.
Through damp wood your breath rises
a small miracle of enough—
flame to cook our supper,
light to stave the darkness,
heat to warm our hands.
But our backs chill.
This reminds us of happiness—
one turn, the warmth gone.
How often is the forecast wrong?
Clearing skies portend colder ground
beneath our tent tonight. For all we plan,
life’s more paradox than perfection.
You tell me it’s possible to hold
at once great sorrow and joy,
that one does not cancel the other
on some cosmic ledger of accounts.
In the balance of time I may never
move as easily as you,
ahead on the overgrown path.
But I savor all you notice,
the names you know:
trillium, warbler, brim.
You soothe-talk a small fish
as you unhook and toss him back
to his shining home. For this I want to rise
to my feet and clap. Why not
honor compassion with ovation?
Why not too often say love?
At the choppy lakeshore,
water gulps stones. This this this.
We know that desire, that frenzy,
but today we sun on a slab of stone,
lizards blinking. The sinkhole behind us
could yawn wider anytime. We study
a rock under the water’s surface.
Flat as a palm, marked by a lifeline
some might call jagged. We wade out
ankle-deep, a kind of blessing.
Kory Wells is author of HEAVEN WAS THE MOON, a poetry chapbook from March Street Press. After many years in software development, she now works as a writer, teaching artist, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. Twice a finalist for the Rash Award for Poetry, Kory’s work appears in ASCENT, POEM, UNSPLENDID, THE SOUTHERN POETRY ANTHOLOGY, and other publications. She also performs her poetry on the album DECENT PAN OF CORNBREAD, a collaboration with her daughter, old-time musician Kelsey Wells. A seventh generation Tennessean, Kory lives near Nashville and mentors poetry students in the low-residency program MTSU Write.