The Heron's Nest

Volume XVII, Number 2: June 2015

Editors' Choices

I lock
myself in

Francine Banwarth
Dubuque, Iowa

Ash Wednesday
the hollow between
her collar bones

Deb Baker
Concord, New Hampshire

morning light
the cucumbers have claimed
new territory

Ian Willey
Takamatsu, Kagawa

The Heron's Nest Award

I lock
myself in

Francine Banwarth
Dubuque, Iowa

Not much to go on in this compact gem that drew a strong top rating among Nest editors. But multiple readings immediately occur to me.

Perhaps the most obvious is that nighttime feels like the most dangerous time, especially but not exclusively, in urban areas. I lock myself into my house or apartment and triple bolt the door until the sun comes up again and I can see there is nothing to fear (whether that is the truth or not).

My next reading relates to the interior darkness of myself and others. It is not, after all, that someone or something specific is being locked out but that the self is locked in. The cause for such precaution is unspecified, nebulous, and as general as the unknown. The tragedy is that there is not only danger "out there" but also much of what makes life joyful.

I can imagine a silent article at the beginning of this poem:

(the) darkness
I lock
myself in

In other words, the darkness that I myself produce and trap myself within. It's a darkness consisting of limitations I impose upon myself out of fear. And not a fear that comes to me from wholly exterior factors. Nothing is as fearsome as an alienated imagination.

Today we imagine things that were unheard of in our youth. Here are some words and phrases that only came into existence in recent years: "home invasion," "domestic terrorist," "military drone," "dirty bomb," "identity theft," "cyber-attack." These and many others of their kind come to mind and stick there like jingles or pop songs. There has always been a thin line between journalism and advertising. One might wonder if that line has not finally worn away. If sex sells, fear is a close second.

But there are plenty of ancient doubts that have the power to cover our eyes and block out the sun. Am I good enough? Am I stupid, ugly, fat? Where will I get the rent? Who will love someone like me? Will I encounter powerful strangers who will hate me because of my _______?

What's to be done? How can a person deal with this every day?

While final and comprehensive answers to these questions may be out of reach, poetry provides a provisional answer. A poet can reduce her fears to a few chosen words (five!) and give them a more reasonable and proportional dimension in the calming presence of other poems.

John Stevenson
June 2015


The Heron's Nest XVII.2 (6-15)

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