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    The Vallum Award for Poetry 2010 winners


Biographical Note:

John Reibetanz has published seven collections, and his poems have appeared in such magazines as Poetry (Chicago), The Paris Review, Canadian Literature, and The Fiddlehead. He lives in Toronto and teaches English and creative writing at Victoria College. Recent work is in The Best Canadian Poetry 2009, Windsor Review, and Saranac Review




2st Prize

John Reibetanz



Sometimes   her eyes lidded in afternoon sun   the skin
of her hands   butterfly-wing-thin paper   watermarked
by streaming clouds   she opens and closes the conjoined

red paper-cut fish   as if each half   were the slowly
clasping and unclasping wing   of a perched butterfly
the twin carp   having turned gills to lungs   able to sip

and ride air’s currents   as they did water’s   this kissing
couple   displaced from their river home   as she from hers
on her perch now   dream-catching the river’s whisper   in

rapids of traffic   far below the white concrete raft
of their balcony   so some nights   one with the undammed
flow from the apartment’s ductwork   her daughter whispers

her from weeping   no cause for tears   with child and grandchild
here   your cane chair   your own grandmother’s Yixing teapot
your husband’s photograph   yet none of them the same   all

ghost-thin to her eyes   wanting the play of water lights
in the old riverside house   their bodies drowned with it
with unripe peaches in the orchard   unpicked beans   with

the river itself   its feathery voice lost under
the reservoir’s mountain of water   she remembers
how the end crept up through the last days   no sawtooth waves

ripping the shoreline   no dragon bellowing   only
a slow theft of land   each step the flood took no higher
than the width of a spider leg   you could see nothing

happening   but whenever you turned around   something
gone   the garden narrowed by one row   the small green
butterfly barred from its pumpkin blossom   by a pane

of sky   that separated what was alive   from what
had lived   and she wondering then and now   how could she
live   apart from the air that had danced with   and married

her breath   her unrivered heart withered thin   as the red
paper-cut fish   whose wings she now flapped   who could take flight
no more than she   twice bereaved   a riverbank’s widow.




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