Sheila-Na-Gig online


Spring Poetry Contest – Honorable Mention: Jeff Burt


Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California and works in mental health. His poems have appeared in Rabid Oak, Eclectica, Williwaw Journal, Wisconsin Review, and ucity. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Poetry Prize.

My Mother Speaks about Bread

Amid the burning odor of her cancer
my mother teases her memory
to bring pleasant smells of rising dough
in the bathroom of her grandmother’s house,
the shine of white porcelain toilet tank,
the damp white towel draped over
the dough in the dull tin pan.

She remembers sitting on the seat
of the toilet with the door locked
and her siblings upstairs playing,
taking ten minutes of time
in the fragrance of yeast and flour,
the towels hung in thirds,
and a young child’s yellow duck
set perfectly on its beak in the tub
with its little rubber butt up in the air.
Bread, almost palpable, stills her tongue,
her eyes of bluish-gray wander to an unseen
montage of recollections of a small house
in a small town where pleasure dwelt.

For ten minutes she is a schoolgirl again,
stealing quiet time in her grandmother’s house.

May You Be Wood

not a rod of iron,
pliant rather than hardened by tons

of molding pressure and fire,
but shaped by the simple plane of truth,

for wood is given, metal possessed,
wood is plain, metal allure.

Metal survives a fire
but wood exhausts itself delivering warmth.

Metal reflects. Wood absorbs.
Metal is uniform. Wood is various.

Metal rusts. Wood ages.
Metal makes bridges,

skyscrapers, devices.
Wood makes alphabet blocks,

rockers, a breathable siding
and flexible framing for homes

with the history of knots, bruises.
Metal enforces, reinforces.

Wood allows going with
or against the grain.

Playing Trumpet After the Lights Go Off

When I kiss the feet of my baby
and blow on the bottom of his feet,
you may mistake the tapping of my fingers
on his ankles for rim-drumming,
not hear the valves of the trumpet
with lips pursed, embouchure firm,
a fanfare before I powder
and swaddle and place a kiss
on each of his misdirected eyes,
lashes like the shadows of trees
filtering the suddenness of light,
my muted close, a soft glissando
before the worn velvet stop.


%d bloggers like this: