Winner, Slippery Elm Prize in Poetry
Stop with these sonnets. Enough’s enough.
Write a story about love, or godlessness, flamingos
Or something else, I dunno. Just stop that stupid form.
Why can’t you see how it’s unnatural
To constrain yourself, to chain your dream,
So contrived? It’s just a waste of breath.
She has a point, I guess. But what she’s calling breath
Is just the way I know I’ve said enough.
I could go on forever writing a waking dream.
I need constraints. Consider that flamingos
Are, in their way, too vivid, too unnatural
To be pretty on their own. Their beauty’s begotten from the form
Adorning them: the lagoons and reedy lakes will form
With them and give them soul, or what the Greeks call breath.
The breath will whirl us from this world (so unnatural)
To the higher realm when we’ve seen enough
Of this farrago, when we’re ready for flamingos
Who are greater gods, as I was shown once in a dream.
And a flamingo is what dragonflies dream
A bird to be. The ommatidia in their eyes conform
Their dreams to sight so the image of the flamingos
Refracts what they in waking see. The insect’s breath
Will burrow through the thorax then until enough
Has filled the tracheoles so she can wake and fly. The unnatural
Thing, really, is that a bug that’s dreaming seems unnatural.
All living things desire to fly, perchance to dream
Of other worlds. But dreaming’s not enough,
I think: through form alone I form
My flight and bend my breath
To bring me elsewhere, the kingdom of the flamingos.
Perhaps to show that other worlds inhere in ours, flamingos
Came to us. So vivid, so unnatural,
The bird’s infused with that diviner breath
That makes me often drift in wakefulness to dream
Of birds in flight, of fantastical poetic forms. But is it form
Seeking formlessness, the book unbound? It’s not enough to dream.
Agreed. The majesty of flamingos is how I see my dream:
By unnatural constraints, sonnets and so forth, I’ll find a finer form,
Refined by fire, un untrammeled breath only then enough.