Tammy Armstrong OH Competition

Tammy Armstrong

Open House Competition 2019: Highly Commended

Teaching the Reformed Pyromaniac Trigonometry

Some can find it god
in a lit matchhead dropped onto needle mulch
or the big-boned mattress alley-wise in smoulder
or the brushfire drugging the air with its artless smoke.

My student says she finds it everywhere
a thousand thousand sparks when she wakes unrigged
the oily char of Kejimkujik forest fires beneath her nails
blackened jack straw on her nouns.
She feels the flame’s furtherings
its seethes and saws
and they leave her
imagining nothing
but dark uprights against the horizon
chatter-lines chivvied into soffits and flash points.

Each god is a temperamental Zippo
she says a pilot light an ignited wick
and when it starts
it starts with spell-speak

threshing fire from the wasp-shaven wood
fallowing a singular colour before it catches
and trembles like underboil
dog snap lickerous bacon-spit
shaping itself
shaping like wind catching up lawn furniture
in a glassine fist.

Long as a bay leaf a calf’s tongue
it’ll blood the jack pines low she says
star the dog’s suspicious eye
far down the road an accident
finding its footing its empire its hundred dry wells
all in one breath.

Tammy Armstrong is the author of two novels and four poetry collections. Her first collection, Bogman’s Music, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Widely published and anthologized, she has also won numerous competitions, including the iYeats International Poetry Prize, Café Writers Poetry Competition, Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award, and The Well Review Poetry Prize. Her new collection, Year of the Metal Rabbit, will be published with Gaspereau Press autumn 2019. She lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.