Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. 
- W.B. Yeats


Les Bares



The Liturgical Hours

6AM, The Hour of Second Chances

Quiet. The quiet found inside a stone. Perhaps
a talisman left behind on this lonely hill
by a boy who could no longer wait

for luck. They sit in the chill, silent
divisive words unspoken. In stillness
darkness offers an open hand.

They lean arm into arm, watch
the horizon's lavender shawl bloom
auburn to eye slit fire orange.

Steadfast, the sun rolls up the ridge,
stirs the wind, the dawn chorus.
In the light their bodies exposed,

acned and scarred, uncertain.
The foreign language of desire
a minefield of muted words.

They rise. One goes north, one south,
in the compassionate light
of second chances.

Terce – 9AM, The Hour of Our Making

The resolute ladder-backed
woodpecker beaks a sunflower seed,
loops to the shed, stashes it in a gable,
pledging its faith

in the future. The sun thaws
the dread of mourning
doves, scratching out a living
in the turf of a red-tail hawk.

Rusted vans, ladders on racks,
tradesmen at the wheel
off to repair leaking pipes,
short circuits, disconnections.

A last cup of morning coffee
rings blueprints, job orders.
Balance sheets in briefcases wait
for the bus hiss, a recorded

voice announces to the working
world the next stop, locating
three known dimensions,
hinting at a bendable fourth.

For a time this ride
has substance, and we reject
the ante, the cut, the cards dealt.
This is the hour of our making.

It is a novena of flexed muscles,
nails and screws, welds and epoxy.
The construction of a tight line.
The stuff of our devotion.

Sext – Noon, The Hour of Redemption

January grasses
brittle in the noon sun,
a jumble of second and minute hands

taking measure of the length of day,
the light. Graced with memory
roots finger the pulse of soil

for heat, for moisture,
reading the code
for greening.


If the sun is the earth's timekeeper,
its angle and rhythm
opens a slow IV drip.

Dogwood buds count
the minutes. The daffodil leaves
knife blade the lawn.

Pruned grape vines
sprout along tension wires,
reading the light.


Annunciations can be found
hidden in the art of reproduction,
the urging of an angel.

Fruitful, we are led to delivery
rooms where we measure
our breathing against a first cry.

And like the reflective
moon, we are pale extras called
to bear the light and play our part.

Nones – 3PM, The Hour of Abandonment

A teenage cynic slumps in his desk,
watches Brother Dismas perform
his scare-'em-straight routine –

about the evils of smoking
and snorting and drinking
and worst of all, sex.

Brother Dismas fixates on what it's like –
huffing gasoline, pantomimes
holding a nozzle to the fuel filler,

sniffing with his nose as if he is familiar
with the high – looking like a bug eyed
tongue wagging amphetamined

cartoon. The warning becomes a list
of statistics and the young skeptic tunes out,
but Brother Dismas finishes big,

arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross,
head turned, almost in tears as he prays.
At three, the dismissal bell mercifully rings.

Doubting Thomas hurries for the door.
Some of his classmates despite the lecture,
will stay believers. But he slips away

down the hall dodging suspicion,
sneaks into the monk's walk-in cooler,
steals a six-pack of Old Style.

His soul floats behind the wheel
of his dad's Mustang, Sally oh so close.
Oh Brother Dismas, Brother Dismas,

love is in the air, love
with just a hint of gasoline
on the lips of his first kiss.

Vespers – 6PM, The Hour of Disenchantment

Mint mulled bourbon poured, she listens
to Even Song, Yellowjackets trading jazz riffs
praise the Lord on the stereo.

She waves her hand in the air, conducting
zeros and ones to stop making sense
after day-long counted keystrokes per minute.

Cocktail hour well earned, she chases
the cat from the chair, checks Facebook,
discovers pop-up ads derived

from last night's dream and a strange
friend request from a handsome lamplighter
wandering from post to lamppost.

He waves his useless flame at streetlights
that ignite without his taper. She logs off,
dances solo in her apartment.

The playlist slips to Body and Soul,
Coleman Hawkins smoker's breath.
Outside the haze of dusk collects and falls

on the palimpsest of another Friday night.
Another glance at her cell phone.
No missed calls.

The sublime bewildered lamplighter
on the sidewalk dripping wax, – is he
the one? Should she confirm this would-be

friend? And what is the emoticon
for, Oh God, come to my assistance?

Compline – 9PM, The Hour of Recounting

A thunk from the right wheel, nothing
more than a speed bump. A blind curve,
a possum hidden by night shadowed tree
limbs on a road. Unavoidable. Regrettable.

The second possum darted onto the asphalt,
as much as possums can dart. It feinted left,
then right. He swerved to miss it, risked
crashing. Yet another thunk, another casualty.

The third sat, middle of the road,
a fixture with her black glasslike eyes.
He made no effort to miss her. Hit her
straight on. She didn't stand a chance.

In his mind, he wants the night to turn
mythological, combating an assault
of monsters and ogres, soulless animals.
– guilt is less immediate as fable,

unreal when sung like an epic
or recited to a confessional
bartender at the VFW. He needs
the bloody slaughter forgiven,

to be handled clean and simple.
Like hosing off possum guts and fur
from the grill of his car. Checking
for collateral damage.

Matins – Midnight, The Hour of Our Doubt

Tonight warm milk and melatonin
will not unseat her dread of the dark,
will not rattle down the drawbridge
over the moat to the Land of Nod.

By the light of the kitchen range
she stirs her pointless chamomile tea,
shuffles her worn slippers across the floor.
Her bathrobe like a scaffold's ragged tarp.

On the table an overdrawn bank account,
her checkbook a miscarriage of numbers
equal to the claimed age of a long ago
online date skilled in Photo Shop.

Next to it, unpaid doctor bills,
an uncalled for dunning letter
reads like the babble from a drunk
demanding apologies. She gives up,

tosses and turns awake in her bed.
A nonsense loop spools in her head.
The last word on the tip of the tip of her—
numbed panic and nameless dementia.

Her stomach churns. Was it dinner, plan B,
subgum subpar to tin canned Campbell's?
The expiration date noticed after the fact?
A slow ride in back of a long black Cadillac?

Lauds – 3AM, The Hour of Resignation

Powerless for the eleventh hour.
The Achilles heel of an all electric house.

The winter wind exploits it
and the weaknesses of weather-stripping.

Of course this is the coldest
day of the year. The night is dark,

bitter as day old espresso left
on a forgotten burner. We have

one LED camping lantern.
Its icy white light casts untrustworthy

shadows that seem to exhale a frozen fog,
like vapors from an opened freezer door.

The cell phone message claims Dominion
Power Company will have the lines fixed

in four hours. We pull the comforter
tight to our chins, our wool hats down

around our ears, resigned
to the sound of our own breathing,

when in amazement,
the power comes back on.

Lights light. The reassuring
heat pump drones, lulling us to sleep.


Les Bares of Richmond, Virginia, has won the 2018 Princemere Poetry Prize for his poem "Breviary." The prize comes with a $300 award.

Runners-up are Grace Gilbert, Athena Lathos, and Jerrod Schwarz. Runners-up are awarded $50. 

Finalists are Holly Allen, George Franklin, John Hicks, Andrew Last, Jonathan Andrew Pérez, and Catherine Ragsdale.

Semifinalists are Toni Bennett, Ethan Cohen, Ann DeVilbiss, Alan Elyshevitz, Gene Fendt, Katherine Fishburn, Dean Gessie, Elton Glaser, Marah Hager, Bosch Jones, Robert Keeler, Kelly Konya, Jayne Marek, and Miriam O'Neal.





Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.
- W.B. Yeats