Features, PoNW Prize & Award Winners

Richard Hugo Prize 2009

Kenneth Fields is the recipient of the Richard Hugo Prize for his poem “One Love,” published in the Fall & Winter 2009-2010 issue (v4.n2) of Poetry Northwest.  Read the winning poem below.
_____________________________________________

The Theodore Roethke Prize and the Richard Hugo Prize are awarded to recognize the best work published in Poetry Northwest each year. There is no application process; only poems published in the magazine are eligible for consideration.  Mary Jo Salter is the recipient of the 2009 Theodore Roethke Prize.  For a list of the previous year’s recipients, visit here.
_____________________________________________

ANY CHARACTER HERE

One Love

+++ Thailand, Laos, Cambodia

Buddha’s birthday
Four figures, stone to gold
One leaning forward,
Compassion, ready
To move, come back
To tell us the house is on fire

+++ * * *

The tuk-tuk driver
Believes
We need new clothing

+++ * * *

Freed the souls of little birds
Who let themselves be caged again
For seed

+++ * * *

Sacred figures draped in yellow
Bas-reliefs crumbling away
Wat overgrown returning to earth

+++ * * *

I am built like him
Great fan-shaped leaves,
Ears veined to cool the blood
We are above the earth, riding it
Our Burmese mahout whispers
Boy, boy
Slaps the insects, smack
On the rough head
Easy with his charge
Rumbling downhill

+++ * * *

Green butterflies like leaves
Like sails along the bank
Sail through the air
Leaves returning to trees

+++ * * *

Polite shy Thais
Bamboo rafts adrift
Greetings, the wai
“We smile, it does not mean
Our hearts are not breaking”

+++ * * *

Rolling through these jungles
News footage in my head
I don’t have to spell it out

+++ * * *

We are all clay
Hands are kneading me
Pummeling, pulling, smoothing
I can’t stand the maleficent thoughts
Evaporating into the scented breath

+++ * * *

Cleansing sweat
Rivers and streams
Coursing in and out
The unceasing
Buddha heart

+++ * * *

Elegant little ville
Low sugar palms shagged
Everywhere
The world reels, new tourist shots
The smell of Deet in the morning

+++ * * *

I feared seeing it as a boy
Then thought I never would
Mekong
The wake of empires
Spreading out

+++ * * *

Lao river fish
Perfumed
Sweet tamarind sauce,
Water cress, oil and lime
Small sliced tomatoes

+++ * * *

Dark stridulations. We watch
Lord Dragon Gecko
Devouring insects
And pray for more

+++ * * *

Up river to see caves
Of images, we make friends
Coming and going, the world
Coursing to see
Ideas of itself

+++ * * *

The waiter has relatives in California.
You should visit them we say.
“Impossible. Young people
Are not permitted to leave”

+++ * * *

New friends from Scotland,
Italy, Kuala Lumpur,
Stories, explosive
Laughter, the way
Of the world
Hilarity of those
Who can come and go

+++ * * *

The promised guide
Does not appear
We gladly pay
Anyway

+++ * * *

Twenty uniformed men
Behind desks
Without a smile
Stamping our passports

+++ * * *

Magnificent ruins,
Forest and culture
In symbiotic rush

+++ * * *

Hair-like gold and beetle wing
Intricate as circuits in a chip

+++* * *

Angkor Wat
Khmer Rouge killed everyone
Who knew what it was
Except the killers

+++* * *

Rama and Sita
Lovers for all time.
He didn’t believe she was faithful.
She was. Same
Same

+++* * *

Oxen and families
On the same plot, viral
Crossover, fertilizer
And gasoline for sale
At the same stand

+++* * *

Duch is on trial today.
Head of Tuol Sleng, S-21. Old
Party pols are trembling
He’s not the only one

+++* * *

Our driver says his English name is Dave.
“Want to see Killing Fields?” “No, Dave,
It’s too sad.” “Very sad. Killed
Three million people, including
My own father. He was
A doctor. I was two months old.
I have two sisters. I am
The baby of the family”

+++* * *

I tell this to the charming man
At the desk. “My father too.
I never saw my father’s face,”
He gestures, “I was in
My mother’s stomach”

+++* * *

I try to tell Nora about it in the van
Between sobs

+++* * *

Decimated
An entire country
Many times over
Some for wearing glasses

+++* * *

So many cries
Paris has done
Paris has undone me
The pitiless elegance of colony
Its tattered banners
And the flags without a single fold
The cudgel
Of Duch and his superiors
How many of them still at large
The diamond drill of sightlessness
Like a poetics not to be vocalized
No breath shaping and turning a syllable

+++* * *

Luck alone or Karma
We were born where we were

+++* * *

Orange juice in Thailand
Lovely green-skinned tangerines
Beauty and beautiful manners
I’ll remember
It wasn’t an apple
In the garden
John McPhee tells us
It was an orange
Zest stinging the eye
I understand

+++* * *

All travelers in the world,
Some coming in, some going
Out of it. Everyone
Is alive right now.
Nora, we are united
Thirty years in this world
One love, one heart

+++* * *

We nearly risk it all
Our last night in Bangkok
Wild ride from the Night Market,
Rainy streets, maniac driving our tuk-tuk
“I am champion driver”
No kidding. We decline
The Ping Pong tour
Whatever the fuck that is
But feel we’re taking it anyway
Wild night wild night
Bouncing from side to side in the little car
Laughing all the way home

+++* * *

The world is dark
With us. Even
Electricity darkens.
Only a few—
Honored in crumbling ruins
Built by darkeners darkened
In their turn—
Only a wild heedlessness
A spare carefulness for those we love
Suffice

Kenneth Fields is professor of English at Stanford, where he has taught in the Department and in the Creative Writing Program for more than 40 years. He has published many essays on American literature, many of which will be collected in a volume, On the Loose. He’s published several books of poetry, the most recent being Classic Rough News.