First Place – 2019 James H. Nash Contest

“Like a quilt, perhaps the quilt covering the speaker at the poem’s end, ‘Five O’clock News’ surprisingly unfolds.”

Nicole Sealey, 2019 Nash Contest Judge

Five O’clock News

by KEITH BYLER

In the lamplight of late autumn’s chill
the day winds down to recollection, sun
crawling the last arcs of its celestial line,
wind dying to a whisper, sotto voce, an exhale.
I exhale, too, prepare to withdraw
into the early darkness, involution.
I had a dream last night.
You asked me an existential question
I actually had an interesting answer
you called it provocative.
But now awake, I can’t remember the question
or the answer. It has haunted me all day.
The woods behind our house
are fading to grays
in the waning light.
The chickens have all gone to roost.
I sit silent in the flicker-light of the muted television,
a different slant on the news of the day.
I wonder what the deaf glean
from the bobble-headed news anchor and flashing
pictures of bombs, rockets, and floods.
Silence is a wool blanket
warm and pruritic at the same time.
Sometimes things are at odds with themselves.
As I slip beneath the quivering surface of the day,
I am barely aware of you gently covering me
with Aunt Maude’s quilt.


Source: St. Louis Poetry Center 60th Annual Poetry Chapbook


KEITH BYLER is a native St. Louisan and a mostly retired physician who spent ten years in the trenches of the emergency room followed by 20 years in private practice. His writing is often informed by his professional experiences as well as his love of the natural world. His poems have appeared in Emergency: True Stories From the Nation’s E.R.’sHurricane BluesMargie: The American Journal of Poetry, Untamed Ink, Floodstage, Thema, as well as his medical school newspaper Still Kickin’. He is also a winner of the Metro Arts in Transit 2008 Poetry in Motion Contest.