First Place – 2021 James H. Nash Contest

“I love poems that, to borrow from Horace, inform and delight. This poem is a delight in its sounds and imagistic intentions even as the moment of the poem requires sincere excavation by the poet. One of the things that makes this poem so wonderful is the intimacy of its topography.  The poem comes from a space of memory that’s complicated by then and now. It is resolute and powerful at the same time, leaving us with a more robust understanding of loss distance and genealogy.”

Adrian Matejka, 2021 Nash Contest Judge

Father, What is the Distance Between Further and Farther?


Maybe we should think of it as the distance
between the world and the world, between love
and its objects, between death and your place

in the hierarchy of sin. These seem to me doubts
of a lower order, and one does not wish to speak
with them. So you are sent into the world without

rituals or ablutions. Remembering you are not Catholic,
realizing now that this isn’t even a church but a mixture
of shopping center and museum, shifting from one

to the other depending on the angle of view.
Each one containing the same items, the same lighting,
even and diffuse, coating the aisles of sculpted objects

and framed images: gleaming stand mixers and diagrams
of improbably-winged aircraft. This is perhaps
a museum of contemporary design, the mall of a second

renaissance, full with the distressing comfort
of the absence of people. You dither
at the little shop, tarrying over price tags. If only there were

some correct combination of items to procure
to set the ills of the world to rights. A large novelty pencil
and an alabaster barracuda. Six trinkets

shaped like stars, a bottle cap, and an autographed copy
of the Treaty of Ghent. A few postcards and a sparkler.
Outside, the procession of familiar strangers slows,

approaches stillness without halting, the traffic of shadows
elongates, gathering towards a meeting place. Maybe
your mistake was in thinking that what you knew

was known, that it mattered calling a thing one name
on this day, the same on the next, that speech could be more
than mere filigree, little chiaroscuros of affect.

WILLIAM YOUNGBLOOD was born and raised near Los Angeles, California, and lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis before serving as the 2018-2019 Junior Poetry Teaching Fellow. His work has appeared in Prolit Magazine and Passages North.