The 2020 Foley Poetry Prize: with goats

photo by sashank hudkar on unsplash

Out of more than 900 entries to this year’s contest, “with goats,” by Brendan Walsh, has been selected as the winner of America’s Foley Poetry prize, established in honor of Dr. William T. Foley. The three runners-up, to appear in subsequent issues of America, are “Hospital View,” by Elena Croitoru, “SHAPESHIFTING,” by Onyekwelu Chiwenite Kingsley, and “Mercy the Horse,” by Willie Lin. Special thanks to Marjorie Maddox (the 2019 Foley winner) and the O’Hare fellow Isabelle Senechal for serving with me as contest judges.
– Joe Hoover, S.J., poetry editor.

with goats
                  for mukethe

though i’m only a visitor,
to them i’m a salt-fingered shepherd
in sweatpants and sneakers
webbed with holes. white-bearded
saanens and tea-coated nubians
rub lumped heads into my thighs;
the world is everywhere and nowhere

but here. i scratch their
angular bones from peak to hoof.
mukethe pulls down the sweet-leafed
branch of a nameless tree.
they stand hindhooved and devour.
the pregnant does, cinnamon
and monet, lie in private stalls,

receive their meals as reclining queens.
they, too, ask for a head scratch. i forget
that things are crashing down around us.
today, i’m sure, some fresh contribution
to armageddon, more casual theft
of earth’s goodness. there’s so much strength
in not knowing; in giving simple pleasure

the surrender it deserves; in living here, not
hiding here, where sunlight
flexes fully on the far fields.
the bucks fill their beards
with the stink of themselves.
they bleat for our hands, our truest gifts,
and we make way for their pasture.

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