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First Prize
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by Partridge Boswell 

Upon receiving an email “Student Walkout Planned” to “send postcards . . . to representatives on the topic of school safety”

Bobbies never carry one though it rains and rains on that calm dignified island. Here we wear them strapped to our waists and chests like feelings without fabric. Who needs words anyway to describe madness—so old fashioned!—when action figures so prominently in our fiction? We must live on too wide an island

where thunder heads can roll for miles and never hit their targets until they do. Too free to be held and yet, we need something to hold onto. On that mild island where it almost never snows they’re brandishing bumbershoots common as colds, so common their hands are evolving into handles, their hair into triggers and

minds into canopies of dread, their fingers into ferrules aimed at whatever may be falling from the unsaid. Assembly is simple, instructions easy to follow as precipitation when words fail and they will; we drag out the brolly we carry unconcealed at our side or the five stacked in the cab rack of our pickup we

peer through like fence slats at Antietam. Chip chip cheerio, here have a go: they’re insanely easy to deploy, a child can do it and has, so easy to just grab when you hear the day’s forecast calling for cloudbursts inside nightclubs churches elementary schools even government buildings—a real gully-washer

could take you by surprise even if your mood toward humans isn’t graying and skies are perfectly blue and children are playing. The more we see them, the more we’ll trust their usefulness like a shoe that keeps our foot dry from puddles of rain or blood or what-have-you. The right to bare arms is a sacred

and personal choice that begins in the womb. If I want to wear a tank top in January like it’s the Fourth of July why shouldn’t I? Besides, I’ll have my trusty bumbershoot at my side no matter the weather—a lover I can love so freely and deeply I can’t even sleep without her cold hard steel packed beneath my pillow. But here I’ve made fun

of a name anyone from that island would never call them, just as Dunblane was the first and only soulless wordless total eclipse of every daughter and son, the only one anyone needed to trigger their hearts’ consensus of common sense and put it plainly on paper—an act so easy even a child knows how to pick up a pen and erase a gun.

* Dunblane: a Scottish town where on March 13, 1996 a gunman killed 16 young schoolchildren, their teacher and himself.


Partridge Boswell is the author of Some Far Country, winner of the Grolier Poetry Prize. His poems have recently received the Edna St. Vincent Millay, Red Wheelbarrow and Lascaux Poetry Prizes, and have surfaced in The Gettysburg Review, Salmagundi, The American Poetry Review, Green Mountains Review, Plume, Poetry Ireland Review, The Moth and Forklift, Ohio. Co-founder of Bookstock Literary Festival, Boswell troubadours widely with the poetry/music group Los Lorcas, teaches at the Burlington Writers Workshop, and lives with his family in Vermont.