Special Section

Winter Birch

(First place winner)

Zack Gauck |

We sat atop the rooftop archipelago
and stared at Chicago, searching for skylines.
Pupils dilated, eyes pierced through
granite buildings cascading over glazed tributaries
where minnows swim in circles.
You traced outlines of planes,
whispered headlines of yesterday’s paper,
and held your hand up to a crows wing.

The contrasting black against a cloud-ridden sky
is like a shining penny tucked in dull loafers once worn through holy hallways.
The finger-tipped wings, these flying shadows, convince the lawless
they will be reborn as the harbingers of failed prayers.

From here we can almost see St. Paul
but the map is frozen to the birch bark tree
written in termite brail.
It’s too cold to take off our mittens,
too cold to trace the route,
so we bite our tongues where sour meets sweet
and sleep like the crow
in darkness
with pupils the size of marbles.