Winning Poems for June 2007

Judged by Bryan Appleyard

First Place

Bad Weather

by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum

You can grow accustomed to storms.
Every night they shake our sheetrock,
set the bricks trembling. Mortar remembers
it is only sand. Our jaunty roof begs
to be doffed. And I huddle within my frame
with dread and an awful wish that the past proves
its redundancies, that miles away the twister
will drop- not here, not now when I have just
remembered my own name.

When the windows bow like Galileo’s glass
I begin to pray to deities yet unnamed,
beseech the clever stars that hide
behind the churning ceiling. I confess
that peace is not my plea. Instead I ask
for more colors and a measure of strength
to face the wind. The red oak fusses
at my window, whines and scratches to come in.

But it holds, this vine-covered house,
stands on its wide flat bottom, a prairie boat
anchored fast in hard white clay and history.
Within I slip off my shoes. Tonight is not the night
that I will walk on broken glass and wear the unmistakable
face of disbelief. The thunder’s growl begins to lose
step with the lightning. In the attic rafters sigh
and creak like scrawny old men. I lay my head
on the last damp cloud where dreams of whirlwinds
and flying shingles wait. I sleep
like a town wiped off the map.

A simple idea very well executed. Weather is a perennial subject for poetry. Here it is evoked almost as a conversation - both with the poet and with her house. The house 'remembers' and 'begs' while the poet is driven to introspection and prayer by the storm. Rhythmically controlled and very firm in its imagery, this is a satisfying poem. --Bryan Appleyard

Second Place

The Daughter of Antiochus

by Adam Elgar
The Writer's Block

I am no viper, yet I feed
on mother’s flesh that did me breed. (Pericles, Prince of Tyre I i 65-6)

No point dividing day
from night since both
are empty. I decline
on sofas and chaises–
longues, hollow with age
and boredom like a skin
shedding its snake.

These days I’m harmless, and my memory
crusts over like my sight. But he’s still sharp,
his nose too long, his accent crude, his stink
of the sea. The only one I really wanted.
He saw me as I was, as Daddy made me,
as Daddy had been making me for years.

I heard someone name ‘Tyre’ the other day.
There were drums and fanfares, so I wondered,
was it him? Had he escaped my father’s rage
and come in his nineties to visit me and gloat
with some ex-beauty tottering on his arm?
I must have wished it. A relief from other thoughts.

Even to the most, let’s say, adoring fathers
daughters lose their glow, and since I had a sister
Daddy farmed me out once she had reached
the age he liked. Some ‘farm’ — this dusty nowhere,
a decrepit king who couldn’t till my bed.
Which satisfied Daddy. What was my fertility to him?

The story goes that I was burned up too
when fire bombed from the sky to punish him.
The woman sitting by his side, like him
reduced to charcoal, was my sister. Daddy
taught me flesh is foul. Correction. Showed.
Correction. All the space there might have been

in me for love, hunger, or
tenderness was filled with him.
Poisons are subtle here,
blades fine, plagues frequent.
I forget which nephew’s
nephew grabbed the throne
last time the music stopped.

This is a dramatic monologue, a difficult form that requires restraint - otherwise the tone of voice and the character collapses. Here the tone of well preserved and we get a real sense of the woman's bitterness and disappointment. There are several wonderful effects - 'like a skin/shedding its snake' and I lie the 'ex-beauty tottering on his arm'. --Bryan Appleyard

Third Place


by Kathy Earsman
Mosaic Musings

That little fellow, Jack, can hardly wait
to walk with us to school; he’ll soon be five.
Each day he waits alone, “See ya!” he says
and waves, he lifts his brows and tilts his head
in Polynesian style. He’s just so sweet!

Jackie little Jackie-down-the-street.

The men are in the river side by side,
their bodies bright with sparkles as they wade
a long slow march, the ripples dance and shine,
and no-one speaks… I watch the shadows grow
until they reach like fingers that would hide

down inside the river by the pipe.

There’s an awful cry, the postman stoops
and snatches, boiling up the water where
a child comes swinging out in fountain gouts
that stream in rivers down his little arms
spread out like Jesus’ arms upon the cross.

Jackie, little Jackie-down-the-street.

Then suddenly the air is full of sound;
the women on the bridge let out a wail
that’s crying on and on and I can see
the shape of it go spreading like a stain,
I see it beating like a wounded gull
flying up the river past the pipe.

Now Jackie’s on the claypan by the bank,
his father sucks his mouth and spits a flood.
We stand and watch him press on Jackie’s chest
and darkness grows around, we breathe the cold,
but Jackie doesn’t breathe, he doesn’t move.

Jackie little Jackie-down-the-street.

Doc Tommo’s car spins arcing in a skid;
he runs and kneels, he fingers Jackie’s throat
and looks into his eyes. “It’s way too late,”
the Doctor says, “Give up, it’s over Sid,
give up I said ! He’s dead! He’s bloody dead!”

Jackie little Jackie-down-the-street.

His father picks him up in his big arms
and holds him close against him wordlessly.
We watch him trudging slowly up the hill
and Jackie’s mother follows heavily,
and everything is still now as I sit

down above the river on the pipe
where Jackie fell and hit his head. He sank.
But no-one said a thing. They ran away
because they got a fright. Oh how I wish
we never took him with us after school
to fish, and play the way he did today

half across the river on the pipe.

Normally I'm allergic to this kind of crisis/reportage poetry, but I know this is my failing. In this case, the narrative is well handled and the tension and horror build inexorably. The danger with this kind of subject matter is that it can turn into just a kind of scream. Much more effective is to contain the feeling within the structure of the poem, exactly what the poet achieves here. --Bryan Appleyard

Honorable Mention

Rhythmically Inapposite

by Michael McRandall
Pen Shells

Lana rides a pony in the
unmindful of the children
who dance circles at the
door —
she wonders if the apathy
is terminal,
or merely, chronic,
but decides it doesn’t matter
since the colors fade
regardless of the

Neighbors stand in line to borrow
which serve to cover shadows
that have melted on the
floor —
plant roses in her window-box
and water them with undiluted
Then watch through shuttered
as she finger-paints a
mourning on the

Lana makes an early trip to
vacant —
where every mother Mary
emulates their father’s
whore —
and withers at the
elementary portrait that is
drowning in the rearview,
as crack-pipes play
a reverential etude to a
fractured morning

Honorable Mention

56 and Sunny

by Mitchell Geller
About Poetry Forum

I concentrated far too much on death,
and somehow missed the violet and the crocus,
and sharp green shoots that sucked the sun like breath.
I concentrated far too much on death;
ignored the rose, or some such shibboleth —
let pure, prismatic joy escape my focus.
I concentrated far too much on death,
and somehow missed the violet and the crocus.

Honorable Mention

Rapunzel at 49 Learns to Dance the Tarantella

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

Because she was awkward,
the opposite of a spun-sugar baby, a black
widow in his glittering
web, because
she never understood about Dylan
and Baez and how she stood out like the purple eye
in the delicacy of his Queen Anne’s Lace
chords, he the pearl shell, the mother
of the luminous lake pearl
and because she thought his book was Tarantella,
never ever understood-

pushed up against it like a train heading
into snowy Hibbing with those Russian wolves
howling outside her window
and she breathing the blast
of coal smoke and exhaling strings
of sweet gas, the floss of cotton candy,
she rubs against his arm like a spotting
cat, noticing the dark whorls of hair, the eight-legged
slip into tyranny.

Her taut, tight controlled body
just the way he likes it, zippered inside
itself, a dance towards his white light, a six pointed
star, not cocaine white or holy but because
he was the teacher and she the pupil
and because she slips inside
his skin, minds the illumination
of his ghost preacher
in and out and in
and out and through his incarnations
and because
her skin has begun to peel, to shed off
into a pile of sawdust
he blows her onto the floor where she becomes
the grit under all the fancy soles,
the stilettos and the boot heels,
the brave and naked toes.

Honorable Mention

Songs from Stephen King’s Knapsack III: Insomnia

by Gary Blankenship

Trees don’t sleep, although some sit up in bed
and pretend. They might even nod off
for a cat-nap, but you never catch them
in the depths of REM sleep where dreams come from.

Some undress preferring to spend the long night
nude, nothing between them and the damp fog
but some ragged shreds of moss and lichen.
Others stay clothed as they watch the moon change

from sickle to an old man eye winking.
Come day, they yawn and nests fall from great heights.

  • 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