The Archibald Rutledge Prize
Winter 2014
Maria Martin

"Florence in the middle of the day"

The streets of this town lay stacked like sticks
in an elemental garden. My ears are thick with
sleep and the sounds of the trains that push
from the tracks tucked behind church rows to wrap
around everything, to make us all pray.

I am in a dry house with a dry roof looking out
a childhood bedroom window into gray light
and to cars that stretch along the street,
fetching children from the school that I once
walked to. The yards here blessed with

magnolia trees, small things chirping from
the leaves like monkeys without hats on.
Winter will not reach us here, not even February.
Two cracked dogwood blossoms, seven months 
of Spring. The sun lights up the window pane fog:

old fingerprints, a year of dust, and a message left
by the nose of my mother’s dog. I sit in this room
on a painfully delicate chair that breathes just as I do.
If I walked out there, the sun would be warm on my face
and the air almost certainly carries the spice
of the many living things that grow in spite of this.
©2014 Maria Martin