Echoes Contest Poetry

The Telltale Bleat [Poetry]

by Elie Doubleday

Poetry Award Winner in the Echoes Writing Contest

One hundred fifty days since last fall when we gently coaxed

Them into the truck, then into the pen, and back a week later and into the stall

To bring them back home where I’d help with the chores. Our goats

Would slowly swell in size and I’d sit and brush them, back to the wall,

Murmur comforting words, hands eagerly pressed to their wombs —

I waited. The kicks would come and I’d push my ear into their heat

Husky hairs stroking my cheek, my forehead, inhaling their perfumes,

Or so he called it, smile on his face, while we sat up all night for the telltale bleat.

The water broke by mid-afternoon, their moans scratching at me;

Their pain with each wave as the babies came closer, we’d run back

Outside every hour to check, to find only blood; the kids absentee.

Then the house went to bed and we were back out in the black

His voice was quiet, knowing the oxygen had long since fled,

And his hand slipped inside, pulling out babies oily and dead.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Runner [Poetry]

by Sarah Reed

Poetry Award Winner in the Echoes Writing Contest

Work is wading out knee-deep into the mud,

to flick the damp whip and hear the horses

running back. One at a time, I take them

under the chin at the cuff of the throat, and

place my other hand over the muzzle, to feel

the hot, sweet breath, see the white eyes

and their unpredictability. The wire cutters

are sharp in the cold, the twang of the cord

snapping back like an incensed reptile as I

cut the bindings on the bales of alfalfa.

Hay in the rack, three-quarters of a cup of

grain in the bin, except for the breeding male

who gets a cup and a quarter. Snorts echo

through the old barn which stands crooked,

in shape of the bent-backed dog who whines,

nipping at the heels of my boots. She smells of

mud and manure and the cold earth wheeling

underneath that plate of uncaring stars. The

feeding is done, so I hold the broomstick in my

hands which are chapped, smelling of horse

urine and cat piss, reminding me of the warmth

that I find in the scent of manure. Hold the

broomstick tight, and looking low to the

floor, I will glide slowly down the length

of the barn, twirling in my skirts of

crusty denim, guiding the stray bits of alfalfa

back into the boxes made to house the feed,

but the alfalfa does not follow my subtle cues,

and I know when I come back tomorrow the

barn will not betray my presence. Hooves and

withers bang a hollow cry against the rotting walls

of the cells. Eyes flash white. They do not

recognize me. When the sun disappears, the

moisture on their heaving flanks begins to freeze

like dew drops like my mind, lashed to the

hope that when I come back tomorrow

the old house by the old barn will still be

standing. Work is walking into the kitchen,

to step over the puddle of dog urine, to

open the door and peek my head into the

study and call out, quietly, to the old woman

inside. Work is walking to the barn, to

crack the whip and tell the horses that

the time of their running is over.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Veins [Poetry]

by Isabella Waldron

1st Runner-Up for Poetry in the Echoes Writing Contest

Muggy air sticks

to my neck, white tank top,

circles of sweat, July.

1 lb. of grey, gelatinous shrimp

plump and raw

In the basin of the sink, I peel them.

Once they were wild things

beneath salt stained keels of

boats, swooping wings of green net.

Shrimp veins to mine are

blue maps to dark channels. Stuck

under fingernails.

I tame them — breaking the

white flesh, pulling tenderly at

thin, mucous veins.

I press my palm

to damp eye, push away

sour sea smell, July.

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