From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Literary Highlights

Scribendi

Each spring, the Department of English publishes Scribendi, a collection of winning entries from the university’s Creative Writing Contest. All Utah State students can submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art work for consideration. The 2012-13 competition received 149 entries from 22 disciplines and spanning six colleges. Poetry by Jeffrey Howard, a graduate student in English, and Sarah Thomas, a senior creative writing and anthropology major, was selected by the editorial staff of Liberalis to appear in the summer issue. Read all of the winning entries at www.scribendi.usu.edu.

The Back Pasture Hill

By Jeffrey Howard, ‘13

1. In summer, we climbed it often,
My sister Ju-Ju and I, carrying
carrot sticks and peanut butter
in Tupperware Mom collected
from yard sales.

We ate between black locusts
with their thorny bark,
played tag among Canadian thistle,
cow-pies dotted our playground
like green landmines.

Tired with our play
we paused by a clover patch.
I pressed grass blades between
my thumbs and mimicked
those mallards and drakes
in Stinsons’ pond.

Ju-Ju picked a piece of grass
but couldn’t echo my song;
she scowled, tossed the blade,
then swatted mine away.

2. When September snap replaced August sun,
fall-air forced us indoors. Winter
brought snow crust muffling
pasture-grass pitches.

Our elbows placed on window sills
we gawked at icicles dangling
low from leaf-packed gutters,
counted water-drips streaking
porch-boards like layered candlewax.

Once a minute we glanced
at the white rise beyond our calf sheds;
we’d climb it again in March,
sink among the chest-high rye stems,
finger each tiller, each pliant node—
never minding the cow-pies—
and I’d teach her my grass-blade tune.

Jeffrey Howard was born in Richland, Washington, in 1985. He grew up on dairy farms in Washington and Idaho and his experience with agriculture and farming have greatly influenced the subject matter of his poetry. Howard graduated in May with a master’s of arts in English-literature and writing from Utah State. He will begin a doctoral program in English and the teaching of English at Idaho State University in the fall.


Black Dress Elegy

By Sarah Thomas, ‘13

I wore the peasant-girl dress today,
long black skirt blooming
with tiny red and yellow flowers
that last brushed pollen over my skin
the morning I watched your graduation.

After the ceremony,
your mother drove a rental car
up the limestone canyon east of town,
past clumps of sage and fallen oak buried in snow.
The whole earth shook like a white tambourine
as she parked beside a frozen lake.
Your parents had never seen snow before,
so we taught them how to fall like angels,
swim like fishes through the crystals.

I wore that old dress today
and sat on the cold porch, reading tragic Jewish poems.
Celan helped me remember loving you
like poppy and recollection,
the dark milk of morning that followed.
Through the black fabric,
I felt your hand on my thigh,
lifted the hem,
and prayed through my teeth for rain.

The snow made us wild.
We scooped and flung it with our paws.
rubbed it in each other’s faces
until our skins turned red.
My dress soaked through
and my body lit fire,
but I could not tell you.
Walking back to the car,
you combed the snow for fallen cigarettes
While I squatted over your long dark hairs,
stirring them over the glittering ground with a stick,
trying to divine a pattern.

I wore that old black dress today
and watched the tree undress.
I listened to the autumn static
warming up like a gramophone,
the scratch and pop of falling leaves
spinning beneath the needle.
I turned the dial up high,
and the leaves grew loud
and crashed like stones into the earth.

Sarah Thomas graduated with a bachelor’s of arts in English in May. She has published poems and essays in Kolob Canyon Review, Scribendi, and Panacea. Thomas was recently awarded an URCO grant to travel to O’ahu to research a specific group of Hawaiian Mormon converts, the people of the Iosepa settlement in Utah, for a piece on spiritual lands and transplantation. Thomas still finds time to work odd jobs like night hawking, searching for medicinal and food plants in Logan Canyon, and volunteering at the Cache County Jail in the Women’s Meditation Program.