When novelists are also poets, we are not surprised to find their fiction writing particularly lyrical. The work of Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient) is described as "for the eye and the ear simultaneously," Alice Walker's writing (The Color Purple) is "passionate, political, personal, and poetic," Russell Bank's The Sweet Hereafter is "beautiful enough to be considered poetry," and Margaret Atwood's writing (The Handmaid's Tale ) pulls "towards art on the one hand, and towards life on the other."
It's no surprise, then, that Joseph Saling, our 2016 Fiction Runner-Up Prize-Winner, is also a poet (see A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing). With only a few excerpts from "Eva," you can begin to appreciate Saling's melodic writing, compelling story, and beautifully drawn characters:
... I first saw her in my father's ceramic art class. He sometimes took me to the studio, and I would sit at a table with the mostly middle-aged women, playing with a ball of clay that I alternately dipped in a bowl of water and squished in my hands. The women thought I was cute, and nearly every one found a reason to touch me at some point during the evening's class. I remember most as being round and smelling like kitchens.
Eva was different... She was tall, angular not round, and while the others seemed familiar, like aunts, Eva was distant. I thought she must be a queen, and the strange angularity of her accent only enhanced the idea... Her clothes were silky, and when I could, I'd get next to her just to touch her skirt. I was fascinated by her long red hair and slender fingers, and if it's possible a five-year-old could be in love, I was in love with Eva.
... There are two stairways to the second floor--one in the front of the house and one in back. The door to Eva's room is exactly half way along the hall between them. Opposite the room's open door, sunlight streams through windows on either side of a fireplace, and a canopied bed dominates the center of the room, carvings of naked women wrapping themselves about its posts. Eva leads me to the bed and unsnaps my bow tie. "You're such a handsome boy," she says, sitting with her hands flat on either side of her. "I'm going to change. You undress, and when I come back, we'll try on your new clothes. Get undressed."
... while I was in the middle of my second divorce, at the urging of my therapist, I sent my parents a letter. It contained just one question: "Are you my biological parents?" My father answered. "I assure you that you are my son." My therapist thought it a strange response, and as we explored what it could mean, Eva began to grow in my memory.
... We eat breakfast at the table beside her window. There are bowls of strawberries, sweet cereals floating in milk, jams in jars without labels, hot breads on which the butter melts in golden pools, and fat oranges that Eva peels and separates and lays on my plate...