Award Winners

Lucille Medwick Memorial Award - 2019

Cecily Parks


Michael Dumanis

M. Soledad Caballero

The Rio Grande

Now is the summer
the Rio Grande
will remember
as the summer the children
were taken from fathers
and mothers
who brought them
to the Rio Grande
The law
of drought
has delivered its trouble
to the Rio Grande
where ranchers once lived
in a house so low
to the thorny-
plant windblown
ground you have
to crawl to enter
its darkness as
I did after
the Rio Grande dried
from my hand
The Rio Grande I
dipped my hand in
after crossing over
into motherhood
is also the one sawing
through the desert
like a sustained
howl After
the Rio Grande
dried from my hand
its disappearance
accumulated sadness
when I learned
a ribbon of stones
would replace
the Rio Grande
threading through green
ground-puffs of mourning
lovegrass and cacti
with flowers like
the beginnings
of wildfire When
it thunders
one summer night
I am not sure
if I am hearing
the drought
breaking or the watery
sound of an endangered
animal drinking
from the Rio Grande
its fear the size
of a small
ammo can
The Rio Grande
holds Texas in
the palm of its hand
or could it be
the Rio Grande
is really the fist
of the United States
I am not sure
the Rio Grande
remembers turquoise-
tipped dragonflies
bobbling over
the ruined
dock the cloud-haired
American grandmothers
who ooooed over
the rapids in a pillowy
raft the cactus
with flowers like pools
of blood the time
its tributaries met and
like lovers pushed
their beds
together so when
the Rio Grande turns
over in its bed
creating the rustle
of the Rio Grande
I ask Which one
of the children
is crying because
how can anyone sleep
through this storm

Rosa Alcalá on Cecily Parks

From the first reading, "The Rio Grande," with its currents of repetition and enjambment, drew me into its layered landscape, where I crawled in and out of its darkness, and through its "thorny-/plant windblown/ ground." The intensity and immersion grew—and grew complicated—as "The Rio Grande," with each subsequent reading, shifted and changed course, its waters rushing or drying up, re-drawing the borders that separate "children" from "fathers/and mothers," the steady flow of "disappearance" from a riverbed of relative safety. "The Rio Grande" is a powerful poem whose author, with admirable dexterity, weaves the threads of the political, ecological, and personal to reveal larger implications and complicities. The result is a blood-tinged textile that confronts rather than comforts its readers, asking in its closure, "how can anyone sleep/ through this storm".