The Walt Whitman Prize Winning Poem

Stereoscope: Pioneer Cabin Tree
by Jill Bergantz Carley

Dogwood blooms, Bierstadt’s mammoth work–
Look: what they are telling you, is true.

I’ve never seen a thing so heavy
Below us, always, curled and
curving a weft of roots to hold them straight,
a ripcord frayed by us, by time, by drought, by fire.

The spot where a trunk meets ground, it is like that;
It’s a weight so large the earth will barely hold it.
Time and exposure,
hemorrhaging cells iron red like our soil soft; downy fur, its trunk, red roots shot through
granite,
We could both find a ferric grave.

Here is Krakatoa, soot-stained into this flesh
Here: it has known language in all its incantations
Here: disaster, cellulose packed so tight there was no growth those years at all, such small cells
stacked.
Here: winter,
swollen, a baptism, here:

Pinned into its red fur, my first boyfriend slid his hand under my blouse;
and, this thing of wonder, of me quaking beneath him, first and always in the dirt at her feet; rise
and fall, a sharp breath, our own topography.

Or the live oak, a riot of mistletoe in its branches;
the heavy stone, feldspar-flecked,
upon which we took our vows;
the lake,
a mirror.

I will tell you: it fell in my lifetime;
I will tell you that.

 

 

Jill Bergantz Carley

Jill Bergantz Carley makes her home in Calaveras County, California, where she lives a half mile from the stoplight and directly over the Mother Lode.  Her visual work has appeared in the DeYoung Museum, bG Gallery, ARTWEEK, and elsewhere.  Her writing has been published by Transfer, Catch, Virga Magazine, and is forthcoming this fall from Silver Needle Press and Opossum.  She’ll be reading at the Death Rattle Writers Festival in Nampa, Idaho, the first weekend of October.  Her day job in engineering keeps her  out of trouble. 

5 thoughts on “The Walt Whitman Prize Winning Poem

  1. I love this poem and how it points to parts of the landscapes and features of a world I’m seeing for the first time: the world of the beautiful poet.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s