The Nation announces the winners of Discovery/The Nation, the Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prize of the Unterberg Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y. Now in its twenty-ninth year, it is an annual contest for poets whose work has not been published previously in book form. The new winners are Patrick Phillips, Robert Sawyer, Kary Wayson and Joel Whitney. This year’s judges are April Bernard, Lucie Brock-Broido and James Lasdun. As in the past, manuscripts were judged anonymously. Distinguished former winners of Discovery/The Nation include Susan Mitchell, Katha Pollitt, Mary Jo Salter, Sherod Santos, Arthur Smith, Emily Heistand, Debora Greger, Roseanna Warren and David St. John. This year’s Discovery/The Nation event, featuring readings by the four winners, is scheduled for 8:15 pm on Monday, May 5, at the Unterberg Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (92nd and Lexington Avenue) in New York City. –Grace Schulman, poetry editor
In the Museum of Your Last Day
There is a coat on a coat-hook in a hall. Work-gloves
in the pockets: pliers and bent nails.
There is a case of Quaker State for the Ford.
Two cans of spray-paint in a crisp brown bag.
A mug on a book by the hi-fi.
A disc that starts on its own: Boccherini.
There is a dent in the soap the shape of your thumb.
A swirl in the glass when it fogs.
And a gray hair that twines
through the tines of a little black comb.
There is a watch laid smooth on a wallet.
And pairs of your shoes everywhere.
A phone that no one answers. A note that says Friday.
Your voice on the tape talking softly.
The Mean Time
After San Francisco, after getting back
from going to San Francisco,
I wash one glass while I unpack
and collect the half-eaten apples
of the afternoon I left
all afternoon. All through each room
of the intolerable tract house
of the afternoon.
The interim of the airplane,
the interrogation of the seat strap, then out
into the bright humiliation of high noon
and I’m back to the embarrassment of the bathroom
where the one window watches
while I tweeze tiny fingers
from the breast of the bath mat between
twelve and two.
I can feel my feet
because I can feel my feet on fire.
Burnt to the slack asphalt
of the black tarmac
staunching the center of the living room.
I am burning because I’ve been built to burn
and I have been burning
because I’ve been left to burn
and I am still burning,
built like a boat tied to a float
and I am forbidden to turn.
Composed in Your Absence
After W.S. Merwin
When you leave, the starving of the limes
begins in earnest. The grandfather clock
freezes in another time.
The second hand ascends a white hill with no top,
where the Lord of Increment
sleeps under his smoke-feather quilt,
and (within a ring, like ruined peppermint)
the unplanted red azalea wilts.
At night, the snake in the little bower
crawls backwards into his clouded skin.
And all the medicines beside the shower
argue with the green phials they’re in.
And the icicles–inverted towers–
drop glass from the gutter’s jagged tin.
This place, so real, it appears artificial
Like the painted backdrop
Of some Technicolor musical
Where real was simply not good enough.
Here too are colors too true–
Blue without a drop
Of anything that isn’t blue.
The sky, sapphire
And the gently rolling spaces
Enameled with a hard ice shell
The blue of a weak gas flame.
And these trees too are blue.
Bereft of song and sway
They tremble against a transparent sky
Like hands reaching for a moment
More of life.
The park’s enameled.
Above it, nothing flies,
Across it, nothing moves
Except for this polished ribboned path
And my own darting brown eyes.