2002 Winner’s Poem

Poem for the Man Who Does Not Answer the Phone

by Melanie Almeder
It is a good thing I am not on some land spit
rattle snake bit, praying the rings will rouse you,
who refuse to answer the phone. A woman could lose a foot that way,

or an entire precious ankle bone could go to rattlesnake rot.
Alone on that swamp spit, on that lick of land
the sun scorched to bits,

a woman could lose the whole leg waiting.
It is a good thing Orange Lake, that ancient most
sink hole is not on fire and I am calling to say,

one lake breaks into flame and the moon itself goes red,
the fossils of ferns unfurl from their limestone graves
and burn. Darling, I’d say, get out of that bed

and see the reasons to love: the cedar knees,
the silvered oak trees, the paths an apple snail traces, sweet ugly possums,
Spanish moss that needs nothing but the brine of July air.

It’s a good thing you are not answering the phone
and I am calling to tell you I’m bit,
the lake burned

the chickens flew the coop, the cows broke out,
the rooster went pacifist. Get out of bed, I’d say, and hear the entire herd
goofing away, how the barn lists with their loss.
The Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award 2002, Judged by Kelly Cherry:

As of 2002 Melanie Almeder is Professor of Poetry Writing and American Literature at Roanoke College. Her poems have appeared in Five Points, Seneca Review, Georgia Review and Southern Poetry Review, and her full-length manuscript has been a finalist in many first-book competitions.