Lucille Medwick Memorial Award - 2020
In the dream I tell customs my llama is a goat.
Because sometimes the heart is not large
enough to hold what is beautiful
if the mind finds it exotic. Sometimes the mind
mistakes itself for a hoarded piece of land
and little campfires spring up everywhere. Smoke
slinks through chain link. Small hands and shoulders
capsize beneath a dehydrated, salt-sick
sun. In the dream I carry mountains through
international waters. I carry the hills, their babies,
to safety. Sometimes I wave away a predator
and there is fire in my hand and my hand
does not want to be part of a human body.
It wants to belong to the llama, the goat, the hills,
the mountain. In the dream I’ve got the North Star
in my trunk. I’m driving it across a border.
I’m taking it to a different part of the sky. It can’t
stand what it has seen. What we need
is not a fixed point. What we need is a world
anthem that everyone knows the words to, one
that says, Come in, come on, come over. I’ve got you.
In the dream, light leaks from thin cracks
where the trunk door meets the body of the car.
The star says, Put me on the dashboard, and I will guide
you. The officer says, Illegal. You can’t take a star
to another part of the sky. And I say, Watch me.
I say, I’ve got enough light to do anything.
Ruth Ellen Kocher on Melissa Studdard
“Migration Patterns” is a fantastic journey that oscillates between dreamscape and fantastic disclosures of the heart, which, as the speaker tells us, is “sometimes … not large / enough to hold what is beautiful.” The couplets balance and meter the magical imagery that develops from the very first line through to the very last, imagery that boldly manifests as “the North star” in a car trunk being driven “across a border,” as “mountains [carried[ through international waters,” as “a salt-sick sun.” I am taken at this writer’s adept elevation of dream-telling so that the framework of the dream itself remains suspended in the poem and as equally mystifying, tender, and optimistic as the dream itself. It is no easy work to write a poem that is light and heavy, all at once, nor to write a poem that is bold enough to aim to uplift us, but this writer has accomplished much in 27 lines. This poem is like a magic trick in that it accomplishes so much before our very eyes seemingly with ease which masks the great labor of this effort. Bravo.