-By Tyler West
The Writer’s Center congratulates Maryland-based poet, Mark McCaig, on winning first place in the 2016 Bethesda Literary Festival Poetry Contest. His poem, Grouse, bridges the spectrum between life and death, animal and human, by describing an encounter with a dead, ruffled grouse during casual evening spent with his daughters (poem included below).
McCaig is an accomplished poet and educator who serves the Maryland literary community as a teacher at Fairhaven High School in Upper Marlboro, and also a writing professor at both the University of Maryland University College and Notre Dame University of Maryland. McCaig is also the author of the book, Like Water: The Extraordinary Approach to Education at Fairhaven School, in which he tells the story of how the rural Maryland high school where he teaches adopted an innovative, unconventional approach to education.
By Mark McCaig
Tracy's Landing, MD
The girls know the roadkill drill, hopping out behind flashing
hazards to follow, creeping up to this hushed brown heap.
Male ruffed grouse, I say—whiskered beak, velvet tail feathers
it once fanned, candy bar colorations circling its broken neck.
How they stare wide-eyed at the dangle when I grab its pinkish
feet, softly placing it in high milkweed. Late summer apology.
My daughters and their friends say for no apparent reason,
like teens repeat you know and like, chirping this phrase
with such frequency they now use it for no apparent
reason. I unbuckle Colleen, then I carry her asleep
across the dark driveway. That sound as she sucks her fore-
finger, like she does, dreaming she’s a ground bird savoring
sweet grubs, drumming her wing, then listening to forest
twilight. In my arms again she settles, a dead weight.