Congratulations to Rhett Watts for winning second place for poetry in the 2020 WNBA Writing Contest!
You can read “Reclaimed” below.
Water logged, sinker logs,
forgotten flotillas of felled trees
held beneath the surface like unspoken words stored,
corralled, massed in strung sentences.
I’m thinking of the Carolina wood my ancestors
made barrels from, purveyors of pitch.
Of chevrons slashed into trees to make spirits
of turpentine that filled the air, the lungs
of servants. Distilled gum that living pine secrets to
protect wounds. Resin boiled into pitch
to paint tight the hulls of ships. Black gum, Tupelo
sharing the swamp with gators, water moccasins.
How the hearts of hard pine lay undisturbed
by ibis and sand crane wading in sedge and grass,
are now sunken treasure valued for hues of blue, grey
and olive green. Durable slabs for tables,
flooring and stringed instruments—shaped wood
become terrestrial again.
Forest-flooded lands, now man-made lakes
illegal to harvest, make deadhead beams precious,
sustainable timber. Once hewn and floated down
Cape Fear River, stranded logs lay
submerged for centuries at bends in the stream,
the wood considered not worthy of salvage.
Steeped like tea in oxygen-depleted water,
tannins leaked, staining the river to black water,
a safe keep for prized Cypress and other woods.
I am in search of the cable, the chain that can
haul up, loose tales of my great grandparents,
settlers of the Poccasin and Dismal Swamps.
Hungry for connection, I excavate memory wood.
An occasional document, released log, surfaces.
But lost letters and family tales remain underwater,
reached only with the deepest dives like flooded towns
covered in dark water or the virgin stands—
ghost forests of unharvested wood.
Rhett Watts has poems in journals including: Sojourners Magazine, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Worcester Review, Ekphrasis, CT River Review, Naugatuck River Review, Canary, and in the book The Best Spiritual Writing 2000. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was winner of the Connecticut Poetry Award (CPS). Her books of poems are Willing Suspension and The Braiding. Her chapbook No Innocent Eye was published in the Rane Arroyo Chapbook Series. Rhett is a member of the 4×4 artist/poet collaborative in Worcester, MA, and she facilitates writing workshops in CT and MA using the Amherst Writers & Artists Method.
View the list of all of the 2020 WNBA Writing Contest winners.