2016 Editors Prize Winner
With such hills, Iowa corn’s an ocean
that splashes blue and gold along the tumbling green
and flashes fresh in the dawning
The corn opens free in the morning wind
and flings the sparrows, winging bards,
dancing above the coursing fields that seep into hills and valleys sweeping
In summer, you’d take to the silkwet grass
bare feet skimming, sliding
cross hedges of horseweed, roads of early gravel too damp for dust
alfalfa steaming incense at the roadside
By the time winter dries you up,
the birds take warm songs elsewhere.
The tree in the morning questions itself
When all it sees is it’s same self back
in the mirror of the snow.
The sea is sunk into frozen sand, and only stalks stretch the lonely ground;
plumes, the foam of a million waves, now scattered bones and bristles
But what before would break horizon in a thousand showering colors,
that would deck the valley in post-storm red
and challenge the Old Man Thunder,
releases itself to a fearless sun, to frozen hilltops sinking by
and what before was endless ocean
is now eternal sky
The Old Goat Dies
Sprawled beneath the oak tree,
the old goat slowly raised its head and sniffed.
The blurring pasture to his blind and square-shaped pupils
seeped long-familiar smells.
Painfully, he swivelled his head
and nibbled the oak tree’s hide—already skinned
from countless goats.
He sunk his head back down.
Slowly, the large eyes closed,
but the nose kept working
as a stirring wind swept the pasture grass
and a new sent rinsed his nostrils.
Stronger and stronger the new scent flew
until the oak tree stood beyond--
the pasture too.
And he closed his eyelids tighter
and tried to grip the ground as it fell away.
The Time When
The time when the gray barn slouched in the autumn stiff,
when the dead leaves gold, red, orange flurried through its windows,
the time when the old goat, restless, trotted back and forth, back and forth, as if
his pen had somehow shrunk in the coldwind blows,
It was then, in a battered jacket, to the field east,
where a few trees stretch the sky over still-green prairie,
that you left the house, that seemed so somehow shrunk, to make a rush that dared to freeze
your fingertips and your eyes, stung bright with air.
It was miles since, with your jacket slung behind,
with the forest snow clumping under your shoes—in the evening--
when you reached him. And the travel there, you questioned once—but never once denied.
And you see the world behind you somehow shrink.
Thomas' previous work has appeared in the Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) Advent Journal and Living Waters Review where he serves as Managing Editor. He will be graduating in May, 2017.