I know batteries work, but have no idea how.
They fit so easily in the palm, like an egg or rock
with a cross and a dash at either end. The cross
and the dash, my old foes from algebra,
calling into question whether or not a number
could exist. In the offing, Ben Franklin sends out
more line for his kite, drifting it toward a thunderhead
like a fly toward a certain trout in a certain river,
perhaps the Merrimack. One day I will sit
in a bedside darkness, with a son or daughter asking
the kinds of questions that invariably come after a day
of playing outside, after a washing behind the ears.
Where do lightning bolts come from? What are they made of,
and why are they so loud?
By that time, perhaps my shelf
will be equipped with manuals containing warnings
about circuit breakers in the event I hazard
the devil's territory of home repair.
Consider the vocabulary—electron, conductivity
charge, current. I may as well talk about gods—
deities in a pantheon with ever invisible qualities.
Sitting in a wicker chair next to the bed, I will I raise my arms
in the glow of a nightlight. An angel's education
begins with watching and listening. How they watched at the garden
as Adam tried words for the first time, tasting each sound, savoring
the name of his wife. He spoke and left 'rose,' 'pelican,' 'lamb' in his path.
God said, 'Go and do likewise.' The angels tend a new garden
to make up for Eden, caring for flowers and trees only they and God know.
Once a day, the Spirit takes the finest of flowers and fruits, dropping them ablaze
into the sun
—sweetening the light the way song sweetens a word. A cloud
may trap some light, storing it weeks, even months, until it grows so full
and hot the light breaks out, cracking the cloud and striking the earth like a spear...
and here I will pray that sleep has finally set in—what do I know
about gathering light? I am all practice and no understanding,
my shadow my alibi—I do not lie, but trade one ineffable
for another. Where does the light go? Who gathers it and how?
to the knowledge in my hands cradling my dad's guitar,
full of its own darkness. What was that tune he sang the fall
I charged through my high school physics class, ever baffled
by those crosses and dashes, so secure in the textbook, but falling
from the pages of my homework and tests like ashes, like loosed glitter?
With Heaven as a Roof
Nu sculon herigean heofonrices weard
meotodes meahte ond his modgeþanc,
Sing me the shaping, the angel said
of a sudden, emerging out of ether.
Caedmon, who was caught off guard,
could only counter: I can’t—
God’s not granted me the gleeman gift.
But being used to unbelieving ears and eyes,
angels are not easily offended:
Yet you will and yes, you,
herdsman honored by Him who is Grace
and by whose holy hand
this hymn thickening in your throat
will live long beyond the language
of its making… which is a miracle— the miracle
after all, of any song.
Attentive then, and against all reason
he sang, spirit-sweet, unstoppable
flame, flung first-hand from
the tongues of apparitions and angels
throbbing with joy, to thaw the
ever-after ears of English.
It is, isn’t it, all we’ve ever had?
the world welling up, whispering like angels:
now should we praise, say me,
sing me, sing me the shaping.
Phillip Aijian of Fullerton, California, has won the 2014 Princemere Poetry Prize for his poem "Mythelectric." The prize comes with a $300 award.
Runners-up are James Heflin of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Brenda Yates of Los Angeles, California.
Monty Joynes of Boone, North Carolina, and Kerry Trautman of Findlay, Ohio, merit honorable mention.
Finalists are Joris Soeding (Chicago, Illinois), Michael Campagnoli (Rockland, Maine), A.M. Thompson (Silver Spring, Maryland), and Caitlan Mitchell (Shepherdstown, West Virginia).
We are grateful to all who submitted.
The 2015 Princemere Poetry Prize deadline will be in mid-September.