Contest Winner

Working People's Poetry Competition



Each passing year the lazy boy chair grew larger
flesh slowly melting into an 89 pound
skeleton sinking into death's reclining arms.

Words heaved out, a strained face, coarse
and weathered as an old oak's bark, trunk
bent over from pollution that you breathed

assembling brake shoes for locomotives.
My bewildered pain lost at the junction: not
knowing which direction to travel to get you out

of this thicket, shady wood days, tangled vine
thoughts, undergrowth of disease stealing
each and every one of your laboring
breaths, lungs' deterioration, suffocation from
inside out like that baby squirrel lost in your bedroom
placed by the exterminator into a plastic bucket

a tightly sealed lid. I wished I had freed it,
the way I wished I could have freed you.
If only I could have rewritten your destiny,

then employment at Freedom Felt, never would
have happened to you or to your best friend, Verna,
who suffered the same fate working beside you.

I'd tear up every page of that chapter,
deleting assembled lines, you as mill worker
and the part where Pop Pop:

stole checks on his mail route,
fired without a pension, his obsession
with drinking and gambling.

You sat up for me, ate like a small child
steel blue eyes, soft pixie hair, asbestosis'
full-fisted punch planted in each

hollowed out lung.
I watched shallow waves of breath,
the receding tide, your weakening heart

thumping a quieter sound
moving to a slower tempo.
When you disappeared, I was not there.

              Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

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