|Our Grand Prize Winner,
for the second year in a row, is a poem. To understand how remarkable
that is — and how remarkable Bill Voyce's
winning poem must be — it's important to know how high a judging
standard we set for poetry. In a short story or essay, a word or phrase
might ring false; that we can forgive. But the essence of poetry is precision
as well as concision — and in this evocative word picture poet
Voyce makes all the right choices.
He tells us, "These are from a volume of Twenty Poems that I wrote about our 20 years of living on the Hopi Rez and our little ranch along the Mogollon Rim before we resettled near Pinos Altos." We can only hope that means he's got 19 more gems like this to share.
Llamas in a Summer Meadow
By Bill Voyce
Sunrise sharpens the summer dawn
With a spray of yellow and magenta blooms
Dusting a palette of balding grasses.
Llamas lie in scattered islands of wooly hillocks,
Defended at one end by a watchtower capped with lazy windmill ears,
That rotate to each new morning note
Or flicker with the intrusion of a waking insect,
Savoring the retreating night air
Refrigerated in the toothy shadows of the ponderosas.
Morning brings a return to habit that raises these cinnamon islands
To gather like isolated clouds on sturdy stilts
Drifting in unobserved patterns
That trample and pluck at the frayed green menu.
Motherhood hears the peal of solar bells urging forth its rhythm
To slip from the womb as a damp gazelle in a slow motion,
Puddling in a heap of tangled legs.
Legs multiplied by legs.
What to do with these legs revealed to unbaptized eyes,
In the rude light of late morning?
How to arrange the four corners of this quaking assemblage
And raise it above the dusty shallows,
To commune with the gathering islands that float between earth and sky?
From the library of instinct, several methods are applied,
That falter and crumble,
As the islands circle above, quietly intoning it to rise.
At last, the collective buoyancy draws the dewy islet
To a tentative anchorage in their arc of curiosity.
Harboring its place on mile-high pilings that sway wildly with each breath.
Slowly the envelope of the womb falls away.
Buoyancy becomes purpose and purpose roots action.
Curiosity is annealed to intention,
And we become ourselves,
In the drifting landscape of a summer meadow
Welcoming a fresh day on the four corners of a new life.
Bill Voyce says of his collection of poems from which this is drawn, "I never published them so it would be a treat to see that happen at least for one of them. This one in particular always brings back the pleasure of that intimacy with our llamas." He lives in Pinos Altos.