Transcript of My Mother’s Sleeptalk: Chincoteague [2020 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize Winner]

Was not a one-trick pony. 
Was the trick of many ponies.
Was the trick of swimming 
The ponies from the island 
To the mainland. So as not 
To burden the island, said 
The saltwater cowboys whose
Trick it was to auction off 
The ponies at the pony auctions
To the women clutching their kiss-
Clasp bags of tricks. Was not
A dirt-trick island, but was 
The island, was its vow to sugar
The ponies until there was 
No cane left to sweeten them. 
A simple trick, to die like 
An island, parched, fenced in
By water, acre graveyard of 
Pebbles and hooves. Oh, was
I ever a ponyless girl 
On the bone-shrill island, 
Was I ever a girl, was I, 
Asked the girl who was as
Many tricks as there were 
Men, as many men as it took
To no longer be a girl. Trick was
To refuse the pony’s love, to love
Instead the glue. Was I yours, 
The ponies asked the girl, salt caking 
Their horse-long faces. Was 
A girl, answered the girl. Was
What I had to be. Was the 
Auction, the swam-sick 
Channel. Was the grief of salt
Split open by water, of
Velvet balding under a 
Bridle. Was the island of 
Burden that is the girl’s, burden 
Of the saddle beneath the 
Burden of men. Was 
The night’s tinfoil raft, its 
Splintered, old-dog light. 
Was mine, was enough.


Hannah Perrin King, whose poem in this issue won The Georgia Review’s 2020 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize, was also named the winner of Narrative Magazine’s Eleventh Annual Poetry Contest and received AWP’s Kurt Brown Prize for Poetry and New Millennium Writings’ 48th New Millennium Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Narrative Magazine, The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Adroit Journal, North American Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and Best New Poets, among others. She was a finalist for The Missouri Review’s Editors’ Prize and her first manuscript is a finalist for the National Poetry Series. She currently lives in northern California.