Fairfield’s Jack Powers wins CT Poetry Prize

Jack Powers

Jack Powers

The Connecticut Poetry Society has announced that the winner of the 2015 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contest is Fairfield resident Jack Powers.

Powers won with his poem, “The Body,” described by judge Dennis Barone as “a poem of complexity and depth.” The winning poem is attached below.

“At the same time it has immediacy and communicates a strong emotional feeling, especially through its narrative leading to an evocative final image,” added Mr. Barone, who is a professor of English and American Studies at University of St. Joseph as well as a prolific writer and editor.

Powers, a long-time Fairfield resident, teaches special education and English at Joel Barlow High School. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Barrow Street, Rattle, Cortland Review, The Southern Poetry Review and elsewhere. He was a finalist in 2013 and 2014 for the Rattle Poetry Prize and winner of the 2012 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contest. He is also a fellow of the Connecticut Writing Project-Fairfield.

Powers will be the featured reader on Nov. 15 at the Mark Twain Library in Redding. More of his poems may be found at jackpowers13.com/poetry.

About the Connecticut Poetry Society

The Connecticut Poetry Society (CPS) is a state-wide community of poets dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of poetry. CPS has a 40-year tradition of excellence in publishing work of national and Connecticut poets. Our mission is to support poetry with chapter meetings, contests, and events for CPS members throughout the state. Prospective members do not need to be a poet or resident of Connecticut to join.

The Body

“Do you want to see the body?” Donny asks.

I stand in the Bijou lobby, cell phone to ear.

When I hesitate, he adds, “We could hold off

calling Gallagher’s.” An hour before

I’d sat by her bed listening to her rasping,

the hospice nurse saying, “Twenty-four hours,

maybe,” her palm caressing my mother’s cheek.

I thought I had time. “No. Call them,” I say.

After Dad died, I took her to the movies every Sunday.

Better than methadone, movies made the pain

in her back disappear. She’d sit expressionless,

floating out of her body to watch a boy train a dragon

or Owen Wilson wander through Paris. Once I took her

to Biutiful and she didn’t complain until the next week.

“It was okay,” she said after watching Despicable Me.

“It least it washed the blood out of my brain.”

When I arrive, Donny and Chrissy stand around the bed.

Ellen is stuck in Jersey. My mother’s lips are warm,

but I can feel the cold seeping in. Her nose seems sharper,

skin yellower; the stillness is shocking.

For two years she’s been just a body – moved from bed

to couch and TV by the Caribbean women who clothe her,

feed her, sit beside her reading Bibles like missionaries.

Occasionally she’d startle us with a word or two.

Just before my father died, they checked her into a room

down the hall from his. After years of his dementia

– helping him dress, answering the same questions over and over,

sleeping lightly afraid he’d wake and wander off

– she was too tired to fight. Worn to the depths of her organs,

to her smallest spark, she never bounced back.

His mind departed while his body remained intact,

but her mind and body left hand in hand.

On the wall above her bed hangs the pine crucifix

that’s been nailed above her sleeping head in every house

we’d ever lived in. At ten, I’d discovered a secret compartment

with candles, cotton, a bottle of holy water and tattered paper.

I’d never told anyone until Father Hopkins came yesterday.

“It’s for last rites,” he said, taking it from the wall,

sliding it open, pulling out the yellow candles, the now-dry bottle,

the brittle paper of “Sick Call” instructions.

I don’t believe, but sometimes, as I watched her disappear,

her body and brain in cobwebs, I wished I could.

Long past talking or walking, she fed herself,

fork rising like a rickety crane the old operator

ratcheted up by memory. When she could no longer

go to the movies, I’d bring her chocolate.

(Her last words to me were “Hershey’s Bar” when the Baby Ruths

were rejected. A minute later she added, “With nuts.”)

After she couldn’t feed herself her hand would still rise on its own

and hover. Then drop back to her lap. After they wrap the body

and roll it out to the hearse, we divvy up the jobs: Ellen and Chris

make phone calls. Donny handles the funeral home.

I write the obituary and eulogy. I search old albums for an obit pic

and find her kneeling in our snowy driveway laughing

with my kids, Zak and Erin, then five and three, in snow suits;

loading a carload of Girl Scouts into a convertible;

and, in the one I choose, at Donny’s wedding, in pearls

and elegant cotton dress, her hair coifed,

her pale blue eyes look at mine. I crop the photo

to frame her face. When they take away the body,

we stare at the empty bed. The feeling of remove,

of watching a film sets in. Donny points to the window.

“When she died,” he says, “Edna opened it to release her spirit.”

I press my face into the glass and squint into the night.

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