WC80 – James White Poetry Prize – Winner

NAWROCKI_photo2 James Nawrocki
Winner of the 2009 White Crane / James White Poetry Prize
His winning manuscript House Fire will be published by White Crane Books.

House Fire by James Nawrocki

It seems too staged, too weirdly poetic this way,
the house where we first met going up in flames
but this is exactly what I come out from my yard to find
as the sirens die at their loudest just up the street
and I follow the uphill stream of spectators
and the trail of the smoke blowing down to us

to find the fire has picked this one. The truth is
we never really came to much: a few torrid meetings
when you were renting a room there and I
trudged up the slope to your door. The truth is
we fell into each other too fast and lasted
just as long as our particular heat required, as if
desire had been stored up in us like so much fuel
and its reckoning had come. We’ve moved on

and now this haunt meets its end as well, the orange flames
like the arms of a maniacal crowd tearing at the wood,
flinging their colors out the ruined windows as if
to answer the gaze of all these witnesses:
the curious, the bystanders, none innocent, none without
a bit of that gleaming-eyed thrill
that regards all destruction.


Golden Gate by James Nawrocki

Brian and I step off
the road into sloping dirt,
down steps molded from
arms and feet of roots,
the trees’ bodies bent down
and standing up, like prayer,
the light there and gone
and there again
as we run
beyond the halted trees
and land safely
at each leap down
from shade into the pitch
of sun and rock,
our feet passing,
pressed in the dust
with other feet as we come
toward the Pacific.

Maybe this is the only way
we will ever free ourselves,
not up from the world, but down
to front the double vault
of heaven and ocean,
the beach like the brief margin
between two states,
the vastness
that teaches the body to be small.

A native of Ohio, James Nawrocki has lived in San Francisco for over 13 years where he works in corporate communications.  In addition to having appeared in White Crane, Nawrocki’s poems have appeared in Kyoto Journal, Chroma Journal, Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Poetry, Poetry Daily, modern words, The James White Review, Mudfish and numerous other publications.  His fiction and essays have appeared in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide and Geek Monthly.

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