365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor

    This month, POINT is pleased to feature three of the winning poetry entries in the University of South Carolina College of Engineering's first Art and Poetry Contest, a campus-wide competition held last month. The contest theme was "The Spirit of Innovation."

    J. Jakub Pitha, First Place student winner, is a Ph.D. candidate in English from Oklahoma City. Second Place student winner Gary F. Leising, from Kentucky, is currently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program. George Lopez, Third Place student winner, is from Florida, and is in the first year of his M.A. program in English.


Hookless No. 2

With the oil lamp hollowing out a golden
space in Pittsburgh's early night
Gideon Sundback sat, and thought.
The hooting of the barges dimmed.
He stirred his cooling coffee with a spoon and
held the Hookless No. 1 to the light; it made a
satisfying zupping when he ran it up and down
its tiny tracks, a little train binding two worlds.
Sundback was a bluntfingered man, unsuited for
a buttoned age, but this nice trick was not
the answer -- he pulled the teeth apart
with unshrugging ease, a sideways smile.
Something so bizarre should work.
He swirled his cold coffee and moved the spoon
to his mouth; as a child, in Sweden,
he would suck the honey not melted into tea
and the habit had not left him.
The metal taste cupped against his palate.

Was there a shooting star when
Sundback knew?
When he returned from the kitchen
with a handful of spoons and lay them
on his table, rich shines amongst his wires,
clasps, dark unruly bits,
and with anxious fingers fit the spoons together and
they held, a metal spine?
Already he was seeing the machine to stamp
depressions into zipper teeth, and the end
of 20 years of trying.
The coffee was bad but tasted good,
and he heard the barges on the river.

by J. Jakub Pitha


It works out through moving hands,
Leaves dirt there to suffocate
Bruised knuckles, tired wrists.
It begins in the nock of an arrow:
The archer pulls the string taut,
Feels the feathers curve
Between his knuckles.
He knows this before the prey
Feels the spinning metal arrowhead
Or tastes its own blood
About to light its tongue.
The hunter knows it as he takes aim
And times the beating, pumping, stopping
And starting again of his heart.

And it is before the Gullah basket,
In a woman's frayed hands,
As they work the sweeping sound
Of the basket being made
While her eyes ignore moving things
Circling around her.
And then it becomes the tension
That surges through each basket fiber
And knows that one wrong twist
Will make them all unravel.

And it is in the fingers of a man
As they pause above the bones
Pock-marked by sand and sun,
And it is in the fiber of his muscles
As he grabs the mammal's jawbone,
Raises it over his head,
And brings it down
To shatter the rib cage of the skeleton,
Half-buried in the hard desert sand.
And it stays in the impressions
Made red in his palm as he squeezes
the bone's teeth into his dry skin.

It ends in the storyteller's throat,
As he places the mangy coyote
Who tricked the moon with a laugh
On his haunches near the back
Of a cave, his tail crushed
Against the wall, wet with sunless water;
There his tongue mates with darkness
As it curves out to release the sound
That echoes off the cave's unpainted walls,
Out its narrow mouth, and holds
Like a rock on a mountain's crest
In the wind
Even past the end of the world.

by Gary Leising


As the building grows taller,
it begins to sway in the wind,
minarets and arches shivering
with each gust, an incomplete belfry
toppling to the ground. The engineer
scowls and scratches her head; then her eyes
flash a "Eureka!" twinkle, and she
snatches up the Lego remains
and tinker toy debris of past
monuments, fashioning rainbow
buttresses for her wood-block fortress.
Nearby, her friend finds that none of the colors
in his fingerpaint palette quite matches
the tint of his dog's fur; he mixes
them all together, though, and proudly names
the new shade "Barnaby." Another
child runs along, arms out, spinning and dreaming
his helicopter dreams, while a girl
smiles at him, twisting the chains of her swing
and letting go, now a laughing
whirlybird herself. High above, miles
above, a boy watches the young
da Vincis; as he hangs by his legs
from his monkey-bar spacecraft, reaching
down and touching the Atlantic,
the Great Wall, cupping the atmosphere
in one tiny hand, he sees more
than anyone has ever seen before,
through the eyes of a child.

by George Lopez

© Copyright by POINT, 1997
Last modified 3/20/97