Thursday 15 August 2019

Happy full moon. The forty-first Moon Prize goes to Paula R. Hilton's beautiful poem "Cherophobia."

by Paula R. Hilton

is a ridiculous word
for my condition: Fear
of happiness. For months,
I refuse to admit
pleasure can live
in a world without you.

But today, on the trail
we used to hike every
morning, an old man
in white sneakers
and belted blue jeans
got my attention.

He waved me toward
the clearing where he
stood, staring, into a jungle
of pines, magnolias
and live oaks, thick vines
twined around their trunks.

Spanish moss,
soft and gray, dangled
from the oaks’ branches,
whispering Florida’s secrets
into the late January breeze.

I don’t know why I chose
to stand next to this elder
as if he wasn’t a stranger.

Maybe it was his conspiratorial tone:

 Ever see a pileated woodpecker?”

“Not outside of photographs.

The ease of my answer,
another surprise. Since
I lost us, I’ve tried not to speak
to anyone I don’t have to bear.

I followed his gaze
to the upper mid-point
of a slash pine.

“There’s the nest.”

He turned, pointed
to where our trail makes
that curve we love.
To the precise spot
where our woods
grow wilder still.

I lost sight of it.
That’s the direction it flew.”

His eyes, the color
of searing summer
beach day sky, framed
by white lashes,
crinkled. Smiled.

Hope you find it.
It’s a wonder.

There was kindness
in the squeeze
he gave my elbow
before he disappeared,
leaving me to my quest.

Though I never spotted
the woodpecker, its body
the size and color of a crow,
never got to see the white stripes
running down its neck, or its
flaming red crest, I did,
finally, hear it, hidden inside
our favorite tangle of trees,
tapping, rapping, knocking.

* * * * *

Paula R. Hilton is a novelist who explores the ways deeply flawed people can still be forces of good in the world. Her fiction, essays and poetry have appeared on The Feminine Collective and NPR's This I Believe website as well as in a number of literary journals, including Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, The Tulane Review and Ellipsis. Hilton's debut novel, Little Miss Chaos, received the Kirkus star for books of exceptional merit. 

1 comment:

  1. The nourishing presence overlaps the aching poignance just enuf, just enuf.