Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011


by Gary Nelson

Centuries ago, before it could be seen but merely envisioned,
someone theorized unseen small particles bind together
the larger visible ones of the known world, and some energy
like empathy keeps them homogenous, from scattering into larger spaces.

She stands facing the traffic, holding a cardboard sign, poor girl panhandles
while cars pass and motoriists stalled before the light
consider more than they can see before their eyes, her situation in life.
Something mysterious like a splint binds us together, keeps it working
and there are words on the sign to explain what has happened to her

Below her eye, beneath her skin, is the blue of a bruise,
a shiner in the sun like an oil slick pooled by contusion.
Women motorists reach over to their right, stretch tropistically with green
of money, some with seeds of change they offer her
and she accepts with a smile, grateful, this girl battered by choices
she has made. Sisters, they proffer consoling advice and move on.

Men roll down windows and hand out larger leaves,
5s, 10s, even 20s, guys with names like Vito and Fred,
any name they choose on the sly slips of paper with their phone numbers.
Damsel in distress, attractive bottle-blonde, not badly dressed,
a possibility for later. They offer her a place to "sleep".

Later on this afternoon, I will drive by there myself.
Jill will get into a car with me and I will take her home.
I will re-apply the stage make-up to the other cheek this time
because I do not want her to believe the wrong impression,
that she is the victim of Domestic Violence.

Added: 29.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


The first stanza is wonderful, such a positive slant on society. Unfortunately, that society only exists in this poem. Poignant and wistful.


I didn't really get the 1st stanza and that put me off a bit. I think it could have stood alone from 2nd Stanza. Great ending