'Claim,' by Shannon C. Ward

The editors of America are pleased to present the winner of the 2016 Foley Poetry Award,
given in honor of William T. Foley, M.D.
 
Of all the things I’ve ever overheard, my favorite
came from a dark-haired girl who told the boy next to her,
“You have to learn not to care, Mike.”
 
Maybe he shrank his favorite sweater,
someone scratched his car. Or maybe she pulverized
his heart by sleeping with someone else.
 
I’ll never know, though I think of her words sometimes,
like now that someone has robbed my house.
 
The TV, gone, probably propped against a wall
in some pawn shop on 301 or the Merk.
 
A Dell desktop: tomb of many old poems
I must now stop pretending that I’ll ever revise.
 
But there were lines—blissful lines—delicious words
with the lingering taste of silk chocolate
two lovers might share after sex.
 
And the jewelry, a legacy of superstitious stones
weighing nothing but generations between tired women.
 
I do not need my grandmother’s rings
to recall my grandmother’s hands,
tying ribbons in our hair or wiping crumbs from our mouths
to erase the traces of indecency.
 
Sometimes when people die, I imagine their energy
dispersing like beads from a broken strand,
rolling more or less randomly through the universe,
depending on the angle at which each spherule fell:
 
the tintinnabulation of raindrops through the leaves,
delicate, incomprehensible songs.
 
I do not need my sister’s sapphires: the fathomless
blue of old grief. My God, how it hurt just to look at them.
 
The publication of poetry in America is underwritten by a generous grant from the William T. Foley Foundation.
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