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First Prize Poetry: Juniper Daughter

By Lorraine Jeffery

Prickly juniper roots suck errant dew from
chalky alkali in high mountain deserts. Raised
in Skull Valley Reservation scrub oak, mesquite
and sage, our Goshute foster daughter had
such roots. Her darting eyes watched a
muddy river crawl lizard-like through sage,

understanding that it was the life
blood of the desert. After joining
our family, she saw her first reservoir, capturing
each trickle to parcel out
to thirsty crops; last summer her somber
brown eyes scanned a blue lake

high in the Uintas. We plan
a trip west, where only Japan
lies beyond the horizon, to see salt-water
surf crash the rocky Oregon shore. What’s
the ocean like? she asks. I pause
and purse my lips, saying nothing.

Like a river?
No, I slowly reply.
Like a lake? I shake my head, Not
really. She sees I’m
thinking too much again
and walks

off with a shrug. The kid-cramped
car is prickly with
irritation by the time we catch
a whiff of seaweed tang. Still,
before driving to the sandy
campground, we pull onto an

overlook, high above the ocean. She stands
on stick legs, wind blowing her thick ebony hair
to survey black rocks and
cresting waves. Her eyes
on the horizon, she blinks,
then stares
up the beach to the north, slowly

turns her head south and squints. Gusty
wind almost blows it away:
It’s not like anything.   

 

About Lorraine Jeffery

Lorraine Jeffery earned her bachelor’s degree in English and her MLIS in library science, and has managed public libraries in Texas, Ohio and Utah for over twenty years. She has won poetry prizes in state and national contests and has published over fifty poems in various publications, including Clockhouse, Kindred, Calliope, Ibbetson Street, and Rockhurst Review. She has published short stories in Elsewhere, War Cry, The Standard and Segullah. Her articles have appeared in Focus on the Family, Mature Years, and Utah’s Senior Review, as well as other publications. Her first mystery novel, Death is Always a Resident, was published by Cedar Fort in 2015. She is the mother of ten children (eight adopted) and currently lives with her husband in Orem, Utah.

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