Poetry, Grades 10-12: First Place

An Elegy for the Fishing Man — Sararosa Davies

Our feet skim over a cup of coffee in a mug
with finger paintings of acidic ink on the sides.
It jolts itself awake, and then flies
like a bird’s wings flapping through the air
finally descending onto the cotton sand
where grains absorb liquid love Fleshy, tan and naked, your toes move —
the worms waiting to be strung onto your line.
My flip-flops strain under the body of the water —
it seems that everyone here yearns for the march of the current
the drum beat that resonates beneath the sand Your hands that shook at the doctor’s office this morning,
the ones that handled the envelope
in a jittered attack of fingers and palms —
tie the knots on the line with a quick grace.
They dance an intricate old number from a time
where summer days floated like the flies
cooling themselves on a pitcher of lemonade. You cast your line and it falls to the water
the hollows where young age
once slept in your hands —
tense up, and that smooth skin falls deeper
and deeper into a wrinkled panic. Out of the water comes a fish
thrusting itself out for air
breathing a foreign idea for him,
and for you, too. You don’t say anything,
but the fish looks at you
and gasps back —
understanding that neither of you
can afford to be so long on land.