“Turkeys” by Barbara Lange

2014 Salveson Prize in Poetry

I saw five wild

turkeys in a frozen field,

scratching icy clods of dirt,

meandering through broken

stalks of last season’s corn. Unaware

of our passing, unperturbed

by the highway

or us, riding in silence.

The only sound between us

the rhythm of the tires on the road.

You, driving stiff and silent. Your face

hard as the unyielding ground

they just kept scratching. Me,

forehead against frigid window,

looking out, wishing I could join them,

trade our icy silence for

the warmth of winter sun

on frozen clods and broken stalks.

“Mourning Music” by LeAnn Nash

Mourning Music

By LeAnn Nash
 

Rain

sings a surprise symphony,

pounding the street,

 

feeding an unloved swamp,

each root drowning,

 

A circle of death

celebrated by blossoms.

 

Morning wind

burns a wicked tune,

evaporating the nectar

of a wild spring.

 

Love plays a tentative tune

plunging out the door,

running headlong for the place

where eternity will dissolve,

notes floating heavenward

rejoining the eternal chorus.

 

“The Sheep Shearers” by Joe Wilkins

The Sheep Shearers

By Joe Wilkins
 

A distinct culture has evolved out of the practice of shearing sheep.

– Wikipedia entry

 

All long necks and whiskers and three-day hangovers

sweated out on the peeling linoleum of some low-slung camper,

all greasy jeans and pearl snapshirts undone to the belly,

all black coffee and cigarettes and potted meat—

 

no one respectable, that’s for sure.

Though come March, it wasn’t about respectable.

From behind the old sofa, you watched Johnny Ahern

sprawl in a chair at the kitchen table,

 

wet trail of snoose dripping from his frog’s chin—

your mother fed him three kinds of pie,

your father shook his gnarled hand—

hand that could take a sheep to skin

 

in seconds—and said, Thanks for coming, Johnny.

Lord and the devil know we need you.

 

*

 

Skinny as a barn cat, the one that knocked on the door

and came in for chamomile tea and visit with your mother.

Her face was square and small, a ribbon of scar

from ear to chin, and after her small cup she rolled

 

a cigarette, tapped the ash into her palm. She was one of those

that could have been twenty-three or forty-two. No matter,

what you remember most is how her straw hair

was pulled back with flowers. It was yet mid-winter.

 

She must have grown them in whichever

rusted Airstream she called home, carried them in her lap

through a thousand icy miles of mountain two-lane,

set them in the sink after the table was broke down

 

into a marriage bed. And now, ringing her wrecked face—

umber buds, filigree of leaf, a crown of wild rose.

 

*

 

Milk-faced and bare-chested, trousers gone to threads,

they stood in a ragged line and stared at you. You

stared back. They didn’t speak but turned and ran

to the river. So, you followed. Picked up a rock,

 

like they did, and winged it at a carp. Together,

you floated a hunk of cottonwood to the far bank,

set a muskrat trap, jostled and laughed, and when the sheep

were sheared—the men gone into town for liquor,

 

women gathering dogs and laundry—

you sat on the steps and worked river mud

from in between your toes, felt with each breath the bluing bruise

on your chest, where, after she threw you to the ground,

 

that dark-eyed shearer’s girl propped a knee to pin you

and kissed you hard on the mouth.

“The Ash Grove” by Daisy Wallace

The Ash Grove

By: Daisy Wallace
 

The ash grove we planted is still there;

Dirt under our nails, cricks in our backs, but

We planted all thoserows of trees that day.

They have grown tall with thick, rough, trunks.

The diamonds in the bark are all but gone,

the ridges so deep.

The Tin Lizze is still rusting in the tall grass, but

In a month, a man will come, take it to his garage,

Sand it down,

Rebuild the engine, and the rest.

I’m sorry, but

He will not paint it the pearl violet you always loved.

“Yorkshire Iowa” by Anna A. Eggebraaten

Yorkshire Iowa

By Anna A. Eggebraaten

Where are the cliffs?
Heather to escape mold
moss covered stones,
burning skin where gold
grass stroked. Reading
on the heights.
Walking while thinking
in the woods, where a bird
sings shackles away. Always
clouds that promise rain
clinging as close as a lover.
Where are the cliffs, the wood
and the heather? There is nothing
here but corn, and dust.
Dark shadows in the trees
down the face of a crag
like white skin, flickering
with dew when the sun rose,
not east but west now
falling on these heights.
Clouds come anew.
The flicker is lost, an errant
thought gone, but the bird
sings again. Only it’s a crow
not a moorhen in the bean field
across the road perched
on a tire that says
No Hunting in faded
white paint.