» Poetry

Holiday 2

Winner of the 2021 Humboldt Poetry Prize; originally published in TFR 44.2


On this day that in my childhood we celebrated Christmas

I found myself this year on the Gulf of Mexico

with the sea gone as leaden as clay. It seemed to heave

with an inner dislike—at least from where I stood, three stories up

from the beach, a few expensive yards in

from the sand, the humid spray blocked

by the floor-to-ceiling windows,

and the barely moving palms. I was making

a dinner from my childhood. An egg batter you poured

in hot oil and closed inside the oven for a full

twenty minutes till inflated to crisp gold,

plus a wad of beef crosshatched and pressed with flour and salt.

As it cooked, I read my son the story of Midas, how

he wanted the idea of everything, and the lesson was

that everything was dangerous. Darwin wrote that late

in life he’d lost his taste for poetry, for the fat copy of Milton

he was said to take with him on that first trip, still particular

for all the living parts of earth and mind. The couch

I sat on thinking this was as long as the yachts

we’d seen that day at the marina. In their moorings

they were lined so tight and tidily they hardly bobbed, each the same

synthetic just-washed white and dark blue lettering.

We looked at all their given names. We saw some people walk their dog,

step off their bleached wood deck, onto the plastic dock,

as their small thing scampered merrily into the nearby grass,

the people calling after, calling after. Our boys ran ahead.

What is it to live at this cushioned here and now, these privileged

boundaries where everything that could be said, remembered,

can yet still lie ill or unexpressed: the page I read about the girls

who shaved their teacher’s head and stabbed at it with scissors,

the ink they poured upon it, I was scared to tell my husband

how it haunted me, it followed me all day, such cruelty,

and then the nothingness of ocean and the light’s jewels rippling on it,

at least on these high days when the sun shines.


Lizzie Hutton

Lizzie Hutton is author of one book of poems, She'd Waited Millennia (New Issues Press), and her poetry has appeared in journals including the Antioch Review, Harvard Review, Denver Quarterly, and Sycamore Review (as winner of the Wabash Prize). She is currently an assistant professor of English at Miami University, Ohio, where she also directs the Howe Writing Center. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband and children.