2017 Winning Poem – Of Longing by Jack Cooper

Slouched in your still dark room
you hear the engine of morning
a leaf blower and a broom
two sounds two generations two cultures
and consider that the world looms
ugly or boring or mean until we listen
that no one loves us until we look up

Outside it’s a gray day eclipsed of meaning
and you can’t remember if you’re happy or lost or rich
though it’s possible to believe we only die of longing

You wander oily streets to the water
and gather shells and driftwood
to make a mobile from life forms
that can no longer move on their own
and imagine you understand
why some us appear more beautiful in death

You brush your fingers across a clump of dried sponge
and wonder if the earth’s first communities are disappearing
squeezed to death by our refusal to share paradise
and you think of the dying little boy
who was afraid he’d never see his mom again
and asked if he could be with her someday
and she agreed to meet him
in the far left corner of heaven

You return to your garden and notice
that the lemon tree is blooming months out of season
reminding you of Cezanne
who once took so long to finish a still life
that one of the onions he was painting sprouted
and he had to add leaves

Jack Cooper’s first poetry collection, Across My Silence, was published by World Audience, Inc. in 2007. His poetry, flash fiction, and mini-plays have appeared in Rattle, Crosswinds, Slant, Bryant Literary Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, and many other publications. His poetry has also been selected for Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” and Tweetspeak’s Every Day Poems. Two of his poems received Honorable Mention in Crosswinds Poetry Journal’s 2015 Poetry Contest, and he was chosen as a finalist in North American Review’s 2012 James Hearst Poetry Prize. He is co-editor of www.KYSOflash.com.