Carol Lee Vail Prize 1st Place 2021

Machias Sea Island

      by Judith Janoo

     One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—
waiting for a gift from the sea.
             —Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In the quiet of shared borderland,
in the solitary air, the fog lifting off

the Maine coast and Canada’s Bay,
in the lighthouse, the keeper

keeps sculpting darkness
in the silence that is the island,

the borderland’s weathered rock
and scrubgrass, old Passamaquoddy

fishing grounds so remote,
neither country claimed ownership,

sharing the sculptor of darkness,
wind-riven grasses and eroding rock,

the flagman for fishing boats
the petrels, razorbills and prim puffins

emerging from rock crevices, awkward,
stocky, but dressed to a T, safety-orange

bills stuffed with supper: herring,
briny strands of bladderwrack,

waving surrender where no treaties
sculpt the joined silence, no claim

widens abstract differences, where sea
and shore peacefully share a border,

and the keeper shines a light
on conduct in deep water.

Selected Poem – Old Milkweed

Old Milkweed

by Elizabeth McCarthy

New grasses, wild parsnip,
goldenrod stems, green
weeds that wake
in wispy breaths
of morning dew
wiping away
night’s blank stare
to see

old milkweed still standing
there — since last season,
rattling death
on the edge of field
and garden,
brown leathery husks
shriveled and hollow,
relics of seeds with feathers
that flew with the wind
the day they burst open
the pod door — escaping
to whorl and dance
in the autumn sun.