W I N N I N G P O E M F O R 2 0 0 4
Corn is not what it used to be—r u t h k n a f o s e t t o n
look at it: pale, shuttered against wind.
Long ago I watched fringed scarecrows
lurk and sway in fields,
watched geese V south and north,
then sink by the river, crowding
the ducks. All screeched displeasure.
I squeezed my mother's hand, tilted
back my head, saw the black-veined leaves
already attacked by gray froth:
witch hair, foaming, billowing,
spreading through the tree.
See how she weaves a nest? said Mom.
I saw a witch tangling bark and vein
in her wildhaired spell. A dead
man's beard that grew until it curled
into winter. Horns sprouting from potatoes
in our cellar. Jack's three beans next to my pillow.
A woodblue feather that blew
in my window. The froth exploded:
worms burst free and fell from the sky.
Shiny, dark-striped, slithering
down my hair and face,
neck, arms and legs,
around my ankles, caught in sneaker laces.
I leaped and screamed.
My daughter lifts her eyebrows high,
high, and stares at the gypsy mother,
still webbing the maple tree in her grand plan.
Leaves blush, branches droop and cower
under her weight. She dangles cotton candy lures
to blanket the leaves she's already devoured—
anything for my babies—long bony fingers
of cloud that dissolve like Gretel.
A tree knotted with fog and mold.
I watch my daughter smile, hold out her hand.
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