Contests : War Poetry Contest : Past Winners : 2008 : Elizabeth Hoover
A variety of early ripening grape native to the island of Crete where it has been cultivated since the Bronze Age
When the planes came, she was kneeling
in the arbor, unwinding
roots from a stone, the way her father
showed her before taking
the rusted rifle from the shed
and marching to the sea.
He told her to wrap the roots in damp
paper, flee to the lowlands.
But she had waited and now the air
spit hot metal, tore
the vines as parachutes bloomed
above her. She curled
like a snail under a vat, listened
to the snarl. Soldiers looking
for shelter found her in the shed,
a sapling between her knees.
He vows to chip away the chemical
frosting the ground, crush
rock along the ridge, drag shells
from their craters, make green again.
In the stone cellar, he turns
the casks one fourth of an inch
every nine days, runs his hands
along the boards he cut
from a stump, steamed soft and bent.
But still he sees the men
folding over the dune, sliding
into the russet sea, still
he can't coax his daughter from the arbor
where she digs with her hands,
and gathers scraps of metal, slugs,
a finger bone. She wraps these fragments
in cloth like seeds to dry. If she keeps
digging she may find bronze
axes, spearheads, spiny clubs,
older bones, nearly dust.
The vat again, shoulders scraped
on metal seams, color
of grapes running down her legs
onto the straw.
in the pasture, she creeps to the arbor
will hide you in their shadows
but she is tumbled against boots
dragged back to the shed.
To him it is a miracle: the vines
green again, dulling the memory
of that strange jig the men danced into the sea.
She works the plot of ground he turned for her,
digs furrows with her heels, plants the fragments—shell,
shrapnel, bones wrapped in leather—her
urgent talk rustling like dry vines.
He imagines her garden blooming the teeth
of the man he found—parachute caught
in a cypress—and beat with his rifle butt,
wheezing chasm sucking air.
He fears the grapes
are the only gentle things and they sleep
mulling against each other's bodies in the dark.
IN THE FIELDS
We were already killing them by dawn, started
in the dark fields with the fat-bellied cows
using axes and rusty hammers. A calf darted
between the folding legs of her mother. She lowed
when we caught her, soft in our hands. We hacked, slimed
with steaming insides, dragged her to the burning pile.
We worked our way through the sheep with rolling eyes
mouths frothed red. Then, yes, the dog, who all the while
followed us, prancing. A silky collie beat
to slush. They were a fine stock we laid to waste.
For no reason we tried to calm them with sweet
strokes to their twitching hides, turned their faces.
So they were treated well, their eyes covered—
well or with a kindness we never show each other.
These poems won an Honorable Mention in the 2008 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers. Author Elizabeth Hoover received a $100 award. Copyright is reserved to the author.
About Elizabeth Hoover
Elizabeth Hoover is an MFA student at Indiana University and a freelance writer. Her poetry has appeared in RATTLE, The Cimarron Review, The Asheville Poetry Review, and Hayden's Ferry Review. Her awards for poetry include the Poetry Center of Chicago's annual juried reading award and the Atlanta Review's International Publication Prize. She has reviewed books for the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the New York Observer. Her reportage has appeared in Poets & Writers, American Heritage, and LIFE magazine.