The Laurie Mansell Reich Poetry Prize, 2017

Groundskeeper

by Shannon Sankey

The groundskeeper grows a watermelon patch on the golf course, never sweet. 
He feeds a ten-gallon tank of snapping turtles collected from the pond on the back nine. 
He takes a video this morning of barn swallows at sun up. He unlocks the shop 
and forgets about a Styrofoam coffee to paint a work bench black and gold, 
paint beads of water onto a tabletop with an airbrush he bought on the internet, 
paint in memory of Mike on a tractor, paint over the rust on his ’90 Dodge RAM. 
The groundskeeper mows   U   S   A    into a hillside and takes a nap 
on the brown couch in the back of the shop, listens to the playoff game 
on the radio now that the county took his television. He fishes on the fairway.
He fills a white bucket with tadpoles. He daydreams about them, their legs,
sudden and black, the white bucket teeming with in-between, the white bucket
filthy with life, the groundskeeper swinging the white bucket like the hand of a beloved, 
and everything like this, on and on, for forty years, just like that, the whole world,
all eighteen holes a flawless, high-frequency green and the red flags snapping
and nobody asking what a groundskeeper makes.