second place: poetry

well, milnor, north dakota

by clara bush (texas tech university)


The water itself is orange,

bubbled up in touchable

waves of iron, boiling

on the gas-lit stove-top.


I’m rusting from

the outside in, not

a purposeful hardening,

but a flaky, quarter-formed


skin of understanding.

In fingernails, pink, undernail

softskin blends to blood-orange

with exposure,


and this well feeds us,

old, but potable, drink,

drilled into the partial skeleton

of the scattered bones of grass.


This well colors us,

blotched and pitiful

and stubborn, with tattoos

of a patchy, failing, prairie,


stamps us, brightening

tendrils of strawberry

in blonde hair, with remembering:

most things here are manmade,


rust, human chemistry.

Iron becomes the way of life,

where clouds sweat rain

singly into marsh.


Proof–in stained porcelain,

white tile, the taste of it

in tap, as though the prairie

bleeds for us to live;


the well, the last artery

of the drying grassland. But we

live here, still, no one anemic,

and everyone a leech.


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