Winning Poems for January 2007

Judged by Pascale Petit

First Place

Wolf Dreams

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

I wasn’t sure what he wanted of me; the ice
in winter birches had made the forest slouch
into spring. All that winter I peeled

and sucked papery bark for the sweet taste.
I recognized him from his red tongue,
the furtive runs when I entered his dream

and we crawled along the forest floor, repenting
the dark. I had nothing to bargain with,
no deal to make him human. The night

was filled with briars and salt. In the summer
the air became thick with honeysuckle, slick
with mating. Beetles droned in messy beds

of clover. We slunk along, weeds stroking
my belly. I hadn’t yet decided which life
was better. Grass combed the plume of my tail.

The nights were crystal sharp. I waggled
my slit high, what was left of my breasts pushed
into a pile of decaying leaves. Who cared

how many and how often, I was not entirely his.
Eyes of owls glittered in the sleep of trees, tree frogs
sang in a green-robed choir. The moon clamped

its yellow tooth into my shoulder. I took the whole
night inside. What was to become of us? I had
packed away my white Juliet cap and veil for just

such an occasion. I held him like a warm
peach in my palm, longed for his juice to run
down my chin. Most nights I didn’t care about

the names they gave me. I held my fingers
out to him, felt the tug as my ring fell off, carried
my limbs down to the entrance of his den,

planted a birch just outside his home
as a token of my loyalty. I was free
of the chains of consequence. I gave birth

to his amber-eyed bastard who without hesitation
he devoured. When he becomes old and says
he always dreams of me, I shall make myself

a meal of him, savor his voluptuous tongue,
and suck all the bitterness from his bones.
He will not make such promises again.

This poem creates its own world. It made a deep impression on me from the first reading. It's utterly magical yet I am convinced of its reality, that something important is being vividly communicated. All the senses are employed to persuade me that the emotional heart is true. I can smell and taste it, hear the poem's heartbeat. It's hard to write well about sex but this accomplished, elemental fairytale has a considerable erotic charge. The surprise ending adds an extra edge to the intense love affair and mention of a white Juliet cap and veil keep us anchored in the human despite the wolf persona. The language is taut, lush and has a consistent, lulling rhythm. I love "the sleep of trees" and "The moon clamped / its yellow tooth into my shoulder. I took the whole / night inside" which draw me even further under the poem's spell. --Pascale Petit

Second Place


by AnnMarie Eldon

He drove his engine into me. The fuel was humus, jasmine
juice and lapis pigment. My aorta the combustion
chamber. His piston upstroke was practised not in the
street outside because each time I made him up in a dress
and rouge with Rage Red lipstick around his nipples. He
therefore had taken it apart and put it together again and
again behind closed curtains but with due regard for oil
and grease stains. In the confined space his exhaust spin
gases were risen in the massed morning when rooks should
have been. He prises something jelly-like between thumb
and forefinger. Switches on. Leaves one open kiss to balm
my bitten bloodying auricular helix. Burns fuel-air iron.
One closed kiss to damn revolutions amongst tics who knew
vibrations when they fouled the thudderless earth. And
hackles trumpet bell-shaped valves. And camshaft a poison
promise creeping its oval protrusions. Cam rotors careless
as a strumpet’s petticoats. Labia red ramsails in a
rotational sunset. Talked me up crankshaft cranky. Valve
springs snapped into the open position. All position. All
pushrod hierarchy. And intermittent male logic which paled
the toothed gear phenomena. Afterwards there would be
empty rocker arms, the oscillating parts a’fire and a too
obvious cylinder head. My ghostpenis on my timing belt his
intake legacy. The colliding masses a droolseep upon carpet
become road. The internal a sprainblue bruise. Would display
mileage despondency. Would walk away. He drove his engine
into me. It is still. Still here today.

"Brrmm" reminds me of Marcel Duchamp's "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even." In this experimental prose poem a partner is encountered as an engine. The couple become a human/machine hybrid. The language used to describe this metamorphosis is so dense and baroque that the paragraph resembles an assemblage sculpture, all mechanical parts, jasmine juice and lapis pigment. This piece, with its playful agglomeration of textures, like Duchamp's "Large Glass," is both a love machine and a machine of suffering. Despite the surreal construct I believe that I'm reading about real people and real experience. It is indeed "the unexpected meeting, on a dissection table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella," the tender, brutal meeting of one human with another. --Pascale Petit

Third Place


by Steve Parker
The Critical Poet

I had this meet, see,
with Sam Beckett’s ghost,
I was trying very hard
to survive,
to make something work,
trying to be well.

The river sent telegraphs,
black things that fizzed at nightfall,
that sat outside

(They were going to kill me:
that was all pretty obvious.)

That turkey with no head
rode out across the clifftops
towards Dun Laoghaire,
but we paid him no attention.
All day we shuffled
on the Liffy bridges
looking keen,
grunting through our cans.
Nightfall we drifted
down the antique hoardings,
feeling the gut
welling in our barrels,
doing the tour –
the poets, the Provos,
Easter 1916, a gun cache
in a wardrobe…

me invisible to myself,
Sam a gaunt hawk
like some other
Max Ernst-birdhead-Loplop,
as though
to remind all people
of the violation of childhood,
make them look,
make them look away.

That tower out there
past the bay (a Joyce-dish
filled with foam)
collapsed into the sea,
and we both went running
after John stuck on the train
his face full of alarm
waving under the bridges.

I was trying to ask the right questions
very carefully and slowly,
see past it all, what it was really.
Trying to stand alone
in the dark
with my omens,
with my stuff.

No one got a light?
No one?
Fucking disaster
of a place.

The voice in "untitled" pulled me in straightaway. I empathised with the main character and his or her struggle to survive, to be well. That authentic voice is further reinforced by the questing tone of "I was trying to ask the right questions / very carefully and slowly, / see past it all, what it was really." This poem is attempting to get to the nub of what it's like to be alive in a bleak emotional landscape in Dublin, "black things that fizzed." The lean freeform stanzas add to the desolate atmosphere conjured by the sinuous language. The gritty realism subtly shifts into surrealism through images of urban disintegration. Max Ernst's Loplop even puts in an appearance as Samuel Beckett. --Pascale Petit

Honorable Mention

Stone Soup

by Allen M. Weber
Desert Moon Review

I build bonfires in deserted streets,
tend needful cauldrons of boiling rain.

From unlit houses, humble townies
watch to see if I will step too near,

feed a flame , and for a moment satisfy
their monotonous hunger. Abandoned

daughters wade through pigweed gardens,
stare past tilted pickets, and overlook

their own seasonal fast. Today
each man of rag and bone has gone away;

they scuff dust-white shoes on gravel roads,
or stumble after a nag with a plow

to turn a barren field. Art is wasted
on the artless; I play their kin for fools,

trade hyperbole for food–the odd
wilted carrot or an off cut of meat.

My contribution is chalkstone, color
spooned from evening’s bowl, but a woman

may take sustenance from seasoned words,
and leave her scent in temporary hands.

Her accolades may serve me well, but still
I’ll fade into this self-made parable–

two stone less than Sunday last–still
I’ll carry no salt, no onion for tomorrow’s soup.

Honorable Mention

Flint Michigan

by Stevie Jean Reed

Sleep inside this wheel with me.
The smell of men leaving. Tarred bulk
of cloud in a stiff sky. Factory down
and nothing left but marrow and marrow.
Stacks of tires, I’ll build you a nest,
high up and deep.
Fresh treads,
no miles between us
only rarefied childhooded brittle-lusts.
So sweet and stale our heavy breath
curled in like astronauts.
Small stowaways
not wanting to go home where there’s
nothing but explosions and hands.
Cold supper
while i hold you
and cup your crumpled chin,
drink it in.
Here today, gone tomorrow
is your face
and the name I gave you.

Honorable Mention

Elders: Vincent and Prudence

by Adam Elgar
The Writer's Block

They were the chatelains of slant, moist acres.
Pasture, orchard, bean-rows, slate-tiles, granite.
Counterpointed comfort and endurance.
“Shoot the menfolk,” he would say.
“Ensures a happy family.” Pheasants, he meant,
and practiced it until his aim deceived him.

She terrified our daughters, glinting
in her seventies with the spring
and toughness of the farmer’s wife
we’d never known, who roared her jeep
through narrow lanes with five sons
bouncing in the back.

They believed the wedding of a minor royal
merited champagne, that boarding schools
made men of boys, that women stole
men’s jobs, and yet we loved them:
for saying what they meant, and meaning it;
for standing in as parents; for the valley, woods
and angled drizzle that seemed part of them.

Later, they withdrew to a single small-town story,
with the essential glimpse of grazing cows
out of one back window.
He said, “You either go on, or you go,”
his hand peat-mottled like his single malt.
And after Prudence had diminished,
grey-skinned, scant-haired into her own shadow,
Vincent took his own advice.

  • May 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      I think of the colour purple
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Swimming in Twilight
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      In another country with strangers
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

  • April 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Furiously Overcome by Stars
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Ides of March
      by Rachel Green
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      Natural History
      by Antonia Clark
      The Waters