The 2021 Industry Prize, 3rd Place Winner: Poison by Anders Villani
Thrilled to share the final poem of the 2021 Industry Prize, the 3d Place Winner, selected by judges Jenny Molberg of Pleaiedes Press and Michael Wiegers of Copper Canyon Press, “Poison” by Anders Villani. Please also enjoy the winning poem by Eduardo Martinez-Levya here, and the 2nd place poem by Michelle Peńaloza here.
Our father, naked on the bed’s long edge, calls
the shorebird formation that flew over him
at sunrise a fire-ant trail. At one end, cloud
fruit, a loquat from our old tree, jammy
and breathing; at one end, the nest. His
hamstrings oily as if with lanolin. Bedspring creak and the
crinkle of him biting black
cotton underwear from its wrapper. None of these sounds
bells. Bedside food scraps and medical books.
Our father spits staples into the shag. They vanish.
Would a good son recover them? Would a good son
urge him not to dress after what you did in visiting hours,
not to raise the venetians? How forcing sky
into flesh risks breaking it—the flesh, the sky.
God’s been whispering to you in a child’s voice. Like all children
raised in a house without God, maybe we were
the lucky ones—raised in a house where God stood
a chance of being truly infinite. Or this just vacant
prayer for you. Like the storm-scent of loom-fresh cotton. Like the violet
night, weeks before they sold the house,
when our father went to the back shed for nails
and saw the loquat tree breathing. Glinting. You’ve
heard this one. Orion’s Belt in the torch beam. The eyes
of thousands upon thousands of rats. The bells
of our father’s breath digesting
that what happened next would be barbaric, like the remoteness
of telling you not to come home.
For my brother