Claudia Ann Seaman Awards for Young Writers, 2017, Poetry
Winner: Shira Abramovich, Newton Massachusetts
We were rafting.
up near the borders
of Jordan & Lebanon
the water gushed dark
& cold from snowmelt.
later, we stood
watching Arabs across the fence
cool a melon in a splintered stream.
we ate black cherries from a roadside
stand, each bite explosive & feral.
juice – like blood, trickled
across lips & white
teeth & chins, river rushing
black behind us.
obsidian in the blue-sky sun
as roadside dust shot up in clouds.
my stomach still wobbled, as when
we were rafting.
Professor Chapman writes: In this poem, Shira Abramovich shows us the fresh clarity with which a poet is capable of seeing—in which the world itself is the revelation, honed by deceptive “simple” lines and images that actually compress and contain an authentic vision of reality. Here, the huge cultural implications of “rafting./ up near the borders of Jordan & Lebanon” are juxtaposed with the sensory experience of water that “gushed dark/ & cold from snow melt” and “watching Arabs across the fence/ cool a melon in a splintered stream.” The confidence with which this young poet deploys such a complex image so lucidly speaks to the excellence of the poem as a whole. In “cherries,” the images accrue powerfully until, all at once, they circle back and disappear seamlessly into memory, even as it indelibly imprints itself, on the poet, and her readers: “my stomach still wobbled, as when/ we were rafting.”