Hi blog readers! The English Department is thrilled to announce this year’s Chapbook Contest winner, Bryn Cavin! Bryn is a junior at Whitworth, majoring in English Literature and Writing, with a minor in Editing and Publishing. She is a big, big fan of dogs, sunsets, and new adventures. Enjoy Bryn’s introductory thoughts on her work and an excerpt from Racing Our Shadows below.
I have been lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling over the past year, and visit so many museums that I’ve almost lost track. Most of the poems in this collection came from moments in those travels that took my breath away, broke my heart, or have otherwise taken up residence in my mind. I suppose that these poems are my attempts to put those feelings into some sort of order, to capture them and save them for a time when my memories of these moments have faded somewhat.
This year’s runner-up is Alexandra Jackson! Alexandra is a senior at Whitworth, majoring in English, Writing track.
Alexandra says that her piece, Eyes That See consists of three interconnected stories that explore the lives of small wooden people, and the Providers who accidentally created them, from multiple points of view. The Providers, for the most part, regard the wooden figures as non-sentient, and have consequently not paid much attention to maintenance, causing the problem present in the excerpt. Enjoy the excerpt of Alexandra’s work below!
I’d found him wandering, and knew it was the end. Months ago, he’d added a scarf to the hat. The crevasse had worked its way down his neck to disappear under his collar. If you touched between his shoulder blades your hand sunk in where he was broken. It must have hurt, but we couldn’t bear to ask. His expression was vague and unrecognizing, with no smile. He looked past me and continued walking. When I grabbed him, he stopped but didn’t so much as glance at me. I talked to him as I guided him back to his house, but he showed no sign of understanding. He was pliant, so I sat him down on his bed and began to unwind the scarf. I set that aside and snatched the hat next, tossing it across the room. I jerked the jacket from his shoulders and threw it away too. His shirt was more difficult to remove. Whenever I raised his arms over his head they would immediately sink back down. I grabbed one wrist at a time, squeezing hard in hopes of some response. Nothing. I kept his left arm suspended with one hand and worked the sleeve off with the other, then repeated the process. When that was done the shirt pooled around his neck in a sad collar, revealing how ravaged he was. Two sharp cuts curled around his side and onto his midsection, nearly meeting in the center. I yanked the shirt over his head, tearing it. The ripping noise was so fitting I wanted to shred it. I tipped him down into the pillow to see the damage.
“Damn you, damn you!”
I didn’t know whether I was cursing him, or The Providers. Either way, I wouldn’t be heard. He followed The Providers as faithfully as anyone, believed in them with every breath, yet he was barely in one piece. A scant centimeter of wood held together below the crack. One shove and he could split in half, but it wouldn’t matter. The crack had finally grown until Finch fell in like a house over a fault line. Whatever he had been was gone. I wanted to shake him, to see if I could rattle any sense back into his placid expression, but doing so would be the end of his body too. If that final break happened, he would’ve splintered into pieces. He deserved better than to disintegrate.
When I calmed, I made my way over to the pile of Finch’s clothing and folded it while Finch stared straight ahead. I couldn’t do anything for him. I locked his door behind me and left to go find the town judge, Silas, who would know what to do. We went together to find the architect, Johnson. His understanding of wood was greater than anyone else’s. He wouldn’t be able to fix the crack, but he could fill it, and maybe save Finch. The Providers were the only ones capable of real healing.
We dressed Finch and led him through town to the architect’s garage. Here Johnson had us undress Finch and guide him up onto a table, lying on his stomach. Harnesses used to secure large projects for cutting were tightened around his shoulders and knees. Johnson came over with a large vessel, filled with heated resin. He looked grim as he climbed up to kneel over Finch. We braced ourselves for the scream we’d heard from those others who had needed this treatment, but Finch stayed silent and still as Johnson poured the liquid into the crevasse. He had to heat more resin to finish. Once that was done, we stood together, waiting while the liquid set. It was an amber color and the light pouring in from the ventilation hole in the ceiling made it shine as we gazed at Finch. He never moved, and when the resin cooled Johnson took up his position once more and began smoothing the surface down with his tools. He was familiar with shaping resin to match bodies, able to follow the curves he was replacing perfectly. When we rolled Finch over the resin had seeped through cracks to leave pools of hardened amber underneath him. Johnson sculpted him back together.
When he was finished Finch still just stared. He was lying on his back, gaze directed at the hole in the ceiling. It was a familiar posture; his gaze being directed to the sky looking for any glimpse of The Providers and their huge eyes. He’d only seen them once, when he was new. His own eyes had met those huge colorful orbs above us and latched onto them, watching them open and close. I’d thought the regard was mutual, that the eyes had met Finch’s with respect despite the blankness they must have seen in comparison. He’d felt a connection. We must have both been wrong. Finch’s devotion counted for nothing, yet even now he seemed to be staring up at the sky waiting for the gaze to reappear.