Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Contest Judge
How does the world tell our story?
A line of one cloud overlaps another.
An airplane gone but for its tail.
A first star barely inscribed on the book
of evening before the page turns dark.
What does the first reddening leaf sing down its veins
to loosen the grip of cork from branch?
How does the cricket know to comb its wings
into the rhythm of August ending?
In the middle of a life, what tells us to turn quickly
from the oncoming car or edge of a nightmare
before dropping down to safety again?
What speaks through us at the cusp of winter,
the heavy hands of the next day's humidity,
or the last magnolia bud not ruined by last night's frost
knocked off the tree by a speeding squirrel?
Look away from the words composing the mind
into the blank sky, not quite gray, not quite blue
that dissolves into the wind of the world.
Poet's Notes: I've was drawn to the idea of inscription from the Jewish High Holy Days that start with Rosh Hashana and go on for ten days until Yom Kippur. Throughout our prayers over those days, we plead with God to inscribe us in the Book of Life until the ending hours of Yom Kippur, when “inscribe” turns into “seal” in all those prayers, asking to be sealed in the Book of Life. What was focused on in this poem was the word “inscription,” something available to us through our attention at any moment: to inscribe into ourselves this very moment. I think of Mary Oliver, who in her poem “The Summer Day,” says she doesn't know how to pray but does know how to pay attention. So this poem is a meditation on my continual life work of paying attention so I can glimpse of how life inscribes itself around and through me all the time.