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by Tori Reynolds
Her hand was twice the size of mine, and bony,
the sheen of water on my arm gave her grip
an extra pinch when she grabbed my wrist and shook.
I heard the pennies splat the surface,
watched the brown disks rush back
to the blue bottom.
At the center of the fountain, the angel's mouth
erupted in a hiss:
Don't ever steal another's wishes.
In the first three-line stanza, we learn that the poet is reaching back into childhood for this memory, and therefore that it's a memory that matters, perhaps because it's unresolved or because it's formative. The detail of the large hand gives us the image of the child grabbed by the adult. But Tori Reynolds, our poet, saves the "why" of the poem for its second half, enacting the gradual process of her realization of what she's done wrong.
I'm kind of a line break addict, and I love Reynolds' choice to break after "grip" rather than the arguably more rhythmic word-locations "arm" or "pinch." It focuses us on what the little girl would have been focused on—the sensation of being grabbed. By breaking the line there, she puts us off-balance, just like her girl-self does not know why she's in trouble.
Sensations follow in quick succession in the second stanza—what she hears, what she sees—but like that grip, they're all from outside herself. This is seen from a time-distance, a recollection from adulthood.
Reynolds returns to a more present narration with the fountain's hiss, adding her realization into the image to draw the poem to its close. Knowledge, here, is a fall from innocence. —Chris Vitiello
When we tried to contact Tori Reynolds to notify her of her second-place finish in the poetry contest, we got her voicemail. A few days later, she called back. It turned out that she had been hiking all week in the Grand Canyon, all the way down to the bottom. Reynolds, a trained psychologist, was taking a break from her day job working with criminal defense lawyers all over the country who represent persons charged with capital offenses. Her job is to provide psychological assessment in death penalty mitigation proceedings.
The Massachusetts native moved to the Triangle in the 1990s. Her poetry writing turned from a hobby to a serious avocation after she spent time at Vermont Studio Center. She's now a member of the North Carolina Poetry Society, where she has found a senior mentor in distinguished Greensboro poet Ann Deagon. (The two of them will give a reading at 7 p.m., April 25, at the Southwest branch of Durham Public Library.)
Reynolds lists Seamus Heaney, Franz Wright and Jane Hirshfield among her poetic inspirations. Among her recent publications is a poem in Eno River Press' 27 Views of Durham.