The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize

2011


Two poems from Ivan Young's Smell of Salt, Ghost of Rain

followed by a note on the author

 

The Deer Unspoken


She is almost an absence,
brown velvet neck muscling the soil.

I raise the rifle, place crosshairs
on her spine. She is pulsing there

in fine electric signals. My heart
quickens and something old opens

inside me. Midwife to death,
it tells me we are one thing breathing

along the telescopic sight. I hold
my breath and pull the trigger.

We are shattered. My closed eyes see
nothing, but the skin knows

the body is lying in a heap, blood
and air rivering the field into blooms

of bone and flesh. I take her
in the dark, the empty weight

stronger than gravity, rooting
us to the earth. The sun will rise

on a void, the powdered hoof
prints, the bed of her body,

my boots traveling into nowhere,
the place where she was loaded

and we drove away, a November
mysticism as if we lifted into air

or the field opened up around us,
taking this harvest, this bitter

cold alchemy, back to its beginnings.

 

 

 

Gullah Women

 

The Charleston Market is ripe with bangles:
candles with shells, sand dollar necklaces,
the scallop figurines. But wait on the corner

where old women weave their baskets,
listen to the guttural gullah as they laugh,
and beauty becomes a dark thing – spiced

shrimp over a fire while men sit in frayed chairs,
smoking, singing R & B over the measure of marsh mud.
On James Island sea oats quiver tidal creeks,

crabs crawl the sulfured air, a skiff protrudes
from pluff as if half forming itself from decay.
The world collapses on rising tides.

Something resonant and hard drifts the moonlit brine.
It is in the knuckles of the old black woman
who knots reeds into shapes, intricate, painful.

She pulls a curl straight from the weave in her lap,
drawing something from inside her, shaping
this thing her fingers know better than she can say.

"'Cla 'to gawd," She says. The women shake
their heads at tourists photographing themselves
in stocks outside the old traders' building.



©






Ivan Young was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1966 and received his B. S. in Zoology from Clemson University and his M. F. A. in Creative Writing from University of South Carolina. An Instructor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Salisbury University, he lives in Salisbury, Maryland with his wife Lucy and two children Alice and Caelan. Young is the author of the chapbook A Shape in the Waves (Stepping Stones Press) and the recipient of a 2011 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award. His work has appeared in the anthology Challenges for the Delusional and in the journals, Cream City Review, Fourteen Hills, Crab Orchard Review and North American Review, among others.

"The Deer Unspoken" first appeared in Undefined Magazine, and "Gullah Women" first appeared in Crab Orchard Review.



 
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The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize