Award Winners

The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award - 2008

Joanie Mackowski


All day I waded a field of corn,
and each stalk bulged a lightning bolt, gold-green

and cracking from the husk: a crop of fire.
I came inside, but the fire came too, hovering

beside me as I read the news and irked the day's
card house from its red hours and blue hours,

wanting a useful house. The fire made clear
it meant no harm; it sought to curl its kernel

within my bones, to keep. And so it's been.
It burns with me, swaying, opening: it gropes

my head with its tassels, rifling my memory's
carbons; it huddles a swarm of bees

in my lungs. When I sleep, I dream of winter, the maples
drumming their glass-gloved fingers on the sky.

Donald Revell on Joanie Mackowski

"Lightning Eased: Dream" abolishes, with all of Dickinson's playful tact, the unnecessary distinctions between far and near, between vision and anecdote. Here, vastation is welcomed home even as domesticity itself proves vast. Here is a giddy Calvinist catastrophe, a fire in the bone and an indrawn breath of bees. Dickinson knew the practical terrors of innocence and how they "meant know harm" even as they laid waste the vanities of this world. The poet of "Lightning Eased: Dream" knows them too, and intimately. Such intimacy makes technique transcendent, and so the maple trees are not betrayed but, rather, exalted (and befriended, too) by this poem's closing, most Dickinsonian figure of speech.