“Watchers: A Journey To Alberta” by Jenny Crakes wins the 2014 Balocating Prize for Poetry

Congratulations to Jenny Crakes, a Junior in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and Professional Writing at Michigan State University. Crakes won the Center for Poetry’s 2014 Annie Balocating Prize for Poetry for her poem, “Watchers: A Journey To Alberta.” The judge for the 2014 Balocating Prize was Virginia Poet Laureate Sofia M. Starnes, who visited the Center for Poetry on April 16, 2014, to do a poetry reading and announce the winner. Starnes said the following about the winning poem: “The writing is uncluttered, yet rich in metaphor. The scenes are clean and fluid, the language flows seamlessly, the emotion — like centering prayer — gathers the scene around itself, yet is remarkably open. There is mystery, too, which I always value, a layered quality that leaves the reader wondering about the solitary traveler, the ‘what for’ and ‘why’ of the journey, even as the landscape becomes central to the experience.”

Watchers: A Journey To Alberta
by Jenny Crakes

I
Like elderly neighbors, they listen
as I tell them I am going east.
They send me on my way,
their icefields clinging to peaks
against fierce July heat,
cavern walls so high I can see only blue,
streams etched in chalk.
From the Rockies to the prairie, I cross a line
a sudden exit, a blink
from still granite folds
to yellow fields, the road tapering
straight and swift for miles.

II
Over my shoulder, the watchers hunch and draw together,
knuckles propping up the chin of sky.
They remain, formidable and brooding,
slowly growing pale, slippery. Ghostlike
they breathe themselves back into the horizon
and disappear.

III
Descending into boomtown,
I arrive at the
Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush.
Oil patches and fossilized bones,
help wanted in every window,
and men in steel-toed boots eating ice cream
on their way to rescue houses full of flood.

IV
On the way back, thick wind pushes hair
into my eyes.
The road curls like smoke.
The watchers fade in like a crown, an echo
on the edges an hour before I reach them.
I am drawn forward like a magnet
in the white glare of afternoon.

Mountain photo

Photo of British Columbia, by Jenny Crakes

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