Winning Poems for May 2007

Judged by Bryan Appleyard

First Place

Refugee sproutings across the Continental

by Mike Keo


let us find refuge in
unabashed love;

the crescent blade
tucked against your waist
held like an organ for self flight;

my sac of collected mango pits
I planted for redemption but never sprout
fruits in this land of many winters;

let us pawn them all in for;

tears and honey,
hummingbirds and misfortune,
naga and lock gates,

so we may one day burrow our hands so
deep into a furious hive of dashes and discomfort

that we are fortunate enough
to understand what hold

the spirit is not war and calls to home,

but a monsoon of poetry & weeps
that fastens the mouth

sweet like a Mekong vernacular
sticky with the weight of America’s

orange blossom.

A poem with genuine originality that seems at ease with itself - it is not straining for expression. The rhythm insinuates itself into your mind and the imagery is cleverly restrained. --Bryan Appleyard

Second Place

The Sandwich Hour

by Yolanda Calderon-Horn
New Cafe

Eyes draw a horizon on mine.

There’s a hint of sweet tobacco

breaking away from his aftershave,

scurrying down the nook of my nose.

“Mind if I join you?”

Do I mind?

I do and don’t.

But how do I explain with one

hour for bellies to restock?

“Let’s go.”

We head out of the office

onto a sunlit runner.

All the while we’re touching

on summer camp for the kids

and European cruises versus

cleaning gutters on vacation.

There’s an unoccupied table

under the pink crown of a redbud

tree. We sit. I cross my legs.

Topics are sustained with mid

drone voices: the dream of being

invisible; how he almost became

a vegan; why people marry,

(I uncross my legs) and divorce.

It is moments away until

the hour- One round hour,

like a corkscrew begins to top the wine.

I finish my soft drink- let ice chips

skate down my throat. We get up

to leave when he reaches over to me,

but pulls back as if I’m a stove

whose burners are turned to high.

“You have an eyelash on your cheek.”

Fig. There’s fig in his aftershave.

A very simple idea very well executed. This is a narrative poem, a story turned into verse with the lightest of touches, a delicacy that reflects the tentative anxieties of the encounter. --Bryan Appleyard

Third Place

In a City Made of Seaweed

by Dave Rowley
Desert Moon Review

Double Sonnenizio on Two Lines by Ilya Kaminsky*

In a city made of seaweed we danced on a rooftop, my hands
were slippery dancers, your body a love-flung shorebreak

arched at the hips. Now a city of sand slips beneath us too, castle
rooftops battered by the tide’s foamy tentacles: such trembly aggressors,

such lurchers of reclamation. We scrawl our story in lines
of seaweed cursive. One lover is a dollop of oyster, the other

a mother-of-pearl cradle, we cling tight as the dance-floor shifts.
Such stubbornness flings us through a city of kelp; it’s complicated

among the olive pods. Stubborn love is like a leatherjacket, that tough city
swaggerer, or a porcupine fish filled with air–you suck up what the ocean hands

you, whether krill, or squid’s black ink. The seabed is a rooftop, our story
made for flight: streaming from our gills in stubborn recklessness

these words of love are little bubbles, dancing, rising on a dare.
Such is the story made of stubbornness and a little air.

*First and last lines are by Ilya Kaminsky.

Luscious and dense language used to entangle imagery and associations. The poem creates a dazed hallucinated atmosphere. --Bryan Appleyard

Honorable Mention


by Carla Conway
The Critical Poet

“Life begins unless you interrupt it,”
the old man said and what, inside a womb,
is any kind of isn’t? There’s no room
for nothingness, not anything on earth
is nothing: only tiny, timid, not
ready yet, but moving. Whether want
attends it, still it is: it makes no matter
until the metal sharpens, comes to scatter…
then, the remnants leave because there is no room
for lifelessness inside a mother’s womb.
It wasn’t: I was disposed to disagree
but then it was, though maybe it would be
a cunning seahorse? Next time that we met,
it had gained a head and stunted limbs and yet
it maybe wasn’t – somehow, I supposed
I’d love it if it were. They found its nose
and something pulsing: heart. I started looking
for missing parts, each little finger crooking;
each foot unfurling. What a dreadful eye –
like a raisin, baked – are we sure that it’s alive?
It tested waters just as I would do,
pushing boundaries – now it was a “you”
to whom I crooned as it paddled around the place:
here be monsters. Soon there was a face –
     Are we sure that it’s alive? When did desire,
     all by itself, create? When did despair,
     all by itself, destroy? I tell you never:
     life/death, plus or minus, the endeavor
     needs a being. We are sure it is alive
     but life is a pinpoint, not sure to survive.
and soon there was a need to hurry out
of the straitened quarters. Both of us grew stout.
This small world couldn’t hold him, mama’s girth
stretched tight, horizons cracking. This is birth:
what starts as frail as smoke attains a crown –
his head, his little body cloaked in down –
triumphant as a king. His little hand
finds my fingers finally.
                         I finally understand.

A dramatic meditation in being, this holds the reader with a serious of gentle surprises. --Bryan Appleyard

Honorable Mention

First Date

by Sally Arango Renata
SC Writers Workshop

As I turn towards the lake
I feel his glacial blue eyes
sizing me up from behind.

It’s not hubris, it’s a knowing,
an itch at the back of my brain.

He’s not my type.

So why the flounce,
the undulation?

My hips feel the freedom
to be rounder, my legs longer.
I stride aware of how the peach
on my toes contrast
with cerulean sandals.

My body is talking to me
and to him, in a swill
of invisible words
that will never be

unless he is the one
to make the first move.

Like The Sandwich Hour, a narrative poem of great delicacy and precision. --Bryan Appleyard

Honorable Mention

Jaycee Beach

by Millard R. Howington
SC Writers Workshop

If I didn’t jog north to the Dania
Beach pier then I’d thread the sand
dunes south to Jaycee Beach. The
dune grass whipped at my legs as
I pushed myself in sprints through
the loose sand, then a veer over to
the wetter stuff near the gentle surf
and those clouds rising up like mighty
white towers guarding the ocean, and
tinged pink for the sunrise. I went
for the coffee from an ancient canteen
truck parked there under the swaying
palms, and the lovely blonde lady
who leaned well over to serve.

A moment captured with something of the insouciance of Frank O'Hara. --Bryan Appleyard

  • 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