2022 Poetry First Prize Winner
by Ellen Lee
When the snow is melting and the alleys are rivers
My sister and I make fleets of paper boats
And send them one by one along Downing Drive.
We turn our backs, cover our eyes,
One, two, three, four,
And race to save them before the gutter opens its mouth.
Often we find them capsized,
Pulp slurry clouding the snowmelt.
Sometimes we can’t find them at all
And we know they’ve turned their course up Downing, across Constitution,
Into the Platte, the Missouri, the Mississippi,
Off to ferry passengers between horizons
In an ocean wide enough to leave them be.
Sometimes we catch one with its edges still crisp and folded
So we send it down again, and again,
Until our gloves are heavy with water
And the sails tear apart in our hands.