2016 Poetry Contest Winner ~ Doug Van Gundy
Last Thoughts on Electronic Voice Projection
My grandmother calls less and less frequently
since she died, and when she does, it’s always to complain:
she is cold, she is hungry, the coroner has made a mistake,
that sort of thing. I listen as patiently as I can; I am still in love
with the music of her voice. While she was alive, she’d sing
big band standards in her nasal soprano, the whole time
stuffing pork chops or washing the dishes,
until I’d slip an arm around her back and waltz her
around the linoleum: me taking over the singing, she giggling
like a little girl and dripping soap
from the waterlogged rag in her hand. Now her voice
is ossifying through the degrees, getting thinner and thinner –
now FM, now AM. Finally, she will open her mouth
on the wordless static of the stationless radio or interstellar space.
One day, I’ll answer the phone and hear even less
than the background sound of the line, only the silence
behind the silence, my memory of her having gone
voiceless as a doll.
Doug Van Gundy teaches in both the BA and MFA writing programs at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he also directs the undergraduate Honors Program. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in many journals, including The Oxford American, Ecotone, Appalachian Heritage, and Poetry Salzburg Review. His first collection of poems, A Life Above Water is published by Red Hen Press. He is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. Doug also plays fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and harmonica in the old-time string band, Born Old.