Winner Dermot Healy Poetry Award

This years winner of the Dermot Healy poetry award goes to Illinois resident Dona O’Shaughnessy with the the words of our most esteemed judge Kevin Barry below.


While the Coroner Waits


I thread my fingers through your thick hair

still jealous that it never thinned, I settle

my index finger within the soft indentation

behind your too small, too low ear.


Regretfully, I move vertically along your flat,

silent, jugular until my finger catches

on your clavicle, once broken when you fell off

the hay wagon onto February’s resistant surface.


Pulling my hand up and over your shoulder

sharp as a metal plane jutting into the sky,

I recall the arm that held off an erect bull gunning

across the pasture for our youngest son.


Where was I?


Yes, your shoulder, just above a rib cage often

held against me, frame against the thunders

that besieged us, my digits wave in and out,

in and out, in and out of those narrow bones.


I spread my hand wide, snaking it downwards,

my life lines criss cross as I nestle my palm in

that concave hollow sheltered between

your belly and the top of your thigh.


I’m back to your hip and over its crest

to find the leg and the knee and the ankle

which together carried weak calves out of

flooded fields and into shelter.


The same limbs which transported boxy bee

hives with supers, smokers, and new frames

to buckwheat pastures, a trail of disgruntled

workers, humming at your heels.


An interferring head pokes its agenda

into our room. Mother? Are you ready?

No. Not yet.

I begin again, in the soft indentation

behind your too small, too low ear.


There is a kind of cool detachment to this poem that somehow serves to deepen its poignancy. A life is remembered and celebrated in very crisp, very clear language, the images are of everyday work and events but the effect is transporting, and passionate. A fabulous piece.


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