First Place – 2024 James H. Nash Contest

“‘Hop In’ accomplishes several feats remarkable for any poem—it immediately commands attention, and then line by line pulls us in deeper; similarly, it builds tension all the way down the page; its language is straightforward, almost ‘talky,’ but its descriptions are rich and viscerally felt; it’s a dramatic poem about a horrific act but somehow it manages also to be a beautiful poem filled with nature; and along those lines, its most memorable accomplishment, perhaps, is the way it unifies the social and the ecological, making it ultimately a poem about one of the most basic features of any living thing: survival.”

Hayan Charara, 2024 Nash Contest Judge

Hop In


That’s what the bad ones always say
when they pull over, tires crunching in the gravel, 
a spotted hand reaching to open the passenger door
                            in the rain.

After the men from Barry took BethAnn,
she found her way home six days later on foot,
blood dried in streaks on her calves (no more hitching again ever)
and said when the car slows,  
                            that’s when you run.

First get off the road. Don’t you worry
about the wind in the timbers 
or your church shoes. Don’t you worry 
about the black brush in the dead season 
or the rattlers even. They’re long asleep. 
Step where the ground is wet. Hide in plain sight 
like the lopper moth in lichen. Crawl below the cabbage. 
                             You’ve had to crawl before. 

If there's blood in their noses, they’ll follow. Don’t you worry
about going into the water. Stay coveside, 
scumstill in the cold twilight. Hold your breath 
like the snappers, just two flat nostrils 
skimming the oilslick surface. Don’t you worry 
about going down by the carp, dusky on the mossy riverbottom. 
                           You’ve been cold before.

Hush now. There is no animal you have not whispered to.
Each has lain with you under the dome of constellations. 
The catfish spine has scarred your naked ring finger, 
                              and there is blood between you.

ALLISON CUNDIFF is a bee farmer and teacher. Her publications include the forthcoming novel, Hey, Pickpocket (2024, JackLeg Press) as well as two books of poetry: Otherings (2016, Golden Antelope Press), and In Short, A Memory of the Other on a Good Day, co-authored with Steven Schreiner, (2014, Golden Antelope Press) and two chapbooks: Snapshot (2023, Bottlecap Press), and Just to See How It Feels (2018, Word Press). She lives in St. Louis. Connect at