Warner James Wood

Contest Winner - 3rd Place

Warner James Wood graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Human Evolutionary Biology before completing his MFA in poetry at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. He now lives in New York City.


A game of hold ‘em

We played hold ‘em
by the campfire,
my brother and I.
The only rule is no
one walks away richer,

he said, with a drink
by the deck. He won
every hand, but kept
me in play. You’d worry
the brass horns off a monkey,

he’d say, when I decided
to bet or check. Happy
as a dead pig in the sun
when he’d rake in the chips
after a bluff. And when
I tried to tell him
what he’d heard about me—
how my mouth had changed shape
in the dark with a boy—
he nodded his head
as for a passing,
and looked to the lakebed
where the water flattened down
and everything—everything—
was simple.