Winning Poems for August 2007

Judged by Deborah Bogen

First Place

After Howl III — Rockin’ the Ages

by Gary Blankenship
Wild Poetry Forum

who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels
–Allen Ginsberg, Howl

east of boise they find a cultist who prepared kool-aid for a jim jones
when sister Sylvia saw the Virgin Mary in the pond behind the hen house no one paid any attention to her
south of soshone they locate a survivalist who sells cranberries in a fruit stand on
highway 93
when mama saw Mother Mary in grandpa’s fried egg, they turned the kitchen into a shrine
ketchum is all weed dealers who tithe to a clapboard church in mountain home
Uncle John is still in the attic
they leave orofino where every man woman child stray goat is his her its own prophet
Christ walked across Lake Coeur d’Alene the day of the parade in honor of President Reagan and no one noticed
in the lewiston they come across the holy slots sacred decks hallowed bones mammon’s
offering to the state
the picture of the Garden behind Grandma’s bed only cost her $125 in 1973
in soda springs they hit upon a two dollar gal who nightly prays to baby jesus at least
twice an hour in an alley behind the suds and pack
when the tent revival came to town everyone was there, two members of the cheer squad
were visiting relatives the next fall

the idaho falls temple is being repainted in a new shade of temple white
I dream my guardian angel is on strike
the buddhist gate is locked
on cable Italian suits beg
moloch sings when the roll is called up yonder

To invoke the ghost of Ginsberg is to invite a perilous comparison, but this poem manages that difficulty by giving us a series of wild but believable observations that carry the poem's commentary with a cool energy, and make an off-kilter but undeniable kind of sense. The pictures painted here are intense, and build so dramatically upon each other, that even a phrase as short as "Uncle John is still in the attic" becomes a mental vignette, a miniature morality play that the poem asks us to write for ourselves. Thus the poet is both author and instigator -- very Ginsbergesque. --Deborah Bogen

Second Place

I See God Standing in Stout Grove

by Larina Warnock

Here, Heaven appears in bursts of broken sunlight
between treetops swaying with the weight of words;
supplication spirals up from bodies unbent, unkneeling.

Here, faces appear carved in soft red bark, and limbs
stretch earthward as invitations for embrace; gnarled
branches curl like arthritic hands without pain.

Here, seedlings appear along the frames of the fallen;
new trunks rise beside fern and moss over logs lying
prone; roots curl over ancient stumps and both survive.

Here, redwoods appear in clusters; gods grow upon gods,
between gods, within gods–relics of old religions twisting
together in perpetual union, continuous creation.

Beneath these branches, I know why ancients worshipped
trees, why they sought solace in these groves
and found them filled with spirit-tinged whispers.

I remember you from my youth, Lord.
I remember you from a childlike dream.

A poem explaining what Heaven (with a capital H) is that uses a decidedly pagan imagery many would think is opposed to heavenly values is immediately interesting--the poet has something he or she is really thinking about. And this poem makes its inquiry via complicated linguistic turns that add to its complexity, e.g., "Here, redwoods appear in clusters; gods grow upon gods,/ between gods, within gods..." This profusion of little-g gods whose referent is clearly vegetative growth tempts us then to re-read the poem as more pagan. But the poet does not allow this simplification closing with "I remember you from my youth, Lord./ I remember you from a childlike dream." --Deborah Bogen

Third Place

fulton street hustlers

by Allen Itz

it’s eleven
in the morning
and you can tell
the drinkers,
in the mid-
day sun
as they cross
fulton street,
leaving their
motel room,
heading for
at one of
the dozen
taco shops
in the neigh
chorizo and
eggs with
a side of
beans, two
flour tortillas
black sludge
coffee and
six aspirin
for the head
that won’t stop
aching until
they get their
first beer,
their scrambled
eggs chaser
that officially
starts the day

mostly men,
careful with
fresh shined
boots, sharp
creased jeans
and starched
cowboy shirts
with fake pearl
pool shooters,
dart throwers,
penny tossers,
pinball wizards,
and hustlers of
most every kind,
living on the edge
always, on the edge
of losing usually,
they live on alcohol
and beer nuts,
meals at flytrap
eateries and
dark places where
the truth is only
what you can see
in a smoked bar
mirror, where pre-
tending is easier
than not

This poem breaks a lot of rules and it knows what it's doing when it does. That's a good thing because you better be on your game when you decide to dispense with capitalization and periods, and when you write in lines so short that one is "the" and another is "down-". But as soon as you start reading "fulton street hustlers" you understand that you are on a fast train meant to knock you off your reading feet, that the poem's rhythm is as purposefully offbeat as the lifestyle of the hustlers it describes with its marvelous eye for the right detail and its fluid command of the line. --Deborah Bogen

Honorable Mention


by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum

In the year that caught me in its rusty snare,
cornered me, rolled me like a bum,
I grew an inch. Impossible, you might say.
Middle-aged ladies do not grow taller,
only wider, sadder, greyer. But it’s the truth.
I felt every millimeter in my bones.
The October sky was closer than it had ever been.

From my new perspective I could see
things that I’d forgotten. A footstep
was a mile. Each heartbeat claimed an hour.
So odd, that I was tighter bound
than a spool of coarse thread, but felt
as if my arms were feathered things
unfurled against a coastal wind.

In the year when I was laid open
by a silvery blade, cut from scalp to toe,
I was contained within folded petals
a blossom, cotton white and ready
for spring’s kiss. I bled with joy,
a narrow river that went before me
as a thin rouged trail I knew was mine.

I learned to live unforgiven, came to own
a sorrow as deep as a December night
and a gladness that danced like stars
upon the sea. Things begin so slyly, steal
upon us like a summer twilight. I stand
altered, a tower dedicated to the next breath
drawn. Nothing fits me anymore.

Honorable Mention

Super Nova

by Brenda Nixon Cook
Pen Shells

Axl Rose screams, I’m Going To Make You Bleed. Speakers forward,
audio gain and bass on eleven. The car shakes. Her energy seeps
violet from every pore. She knows there is no containment
possible. Maximum overdrive. She longs for everything to
stop. For the question that tumbles around in her noisy
mind to take a needed rest. She longs for the benefit
of sex, hot and hard or a good cry. Her soul wants
to crawl from her body and leave. Bags bagged,
a one way ticket to somewhere quiet. There
are days the question that flies around her
brain reminds her of a photograph of a
tree in Greece . A tuning fork near the
sea, two limbs barren from ocean
spray. Growing vines cling to
its split trunk, act as foliage
and form the question that
haunts her. That simple
answer is but another
question to tumble
into nothingness.
She hums along
To the

Honorable Mention


by Mitchell Geller
About Poetry Forum

I built my own constricting carapace
from chemicals ingested lavishly,
and wished, with fervor, merely to be numb.
Insensible, I watched myself become
a grim, distorted pasquinade of me,
devoid of kindness, sympathy and grace.

Insomnia, anxiety and grief
have made me recreant, bitter with fear.
I know, my love, that you’d be horrified
at my behavior since the day you died —
not, as you chaffed, in love within the year,
but still marooned on this spiritless reef.

Forgive, my love, the arid waste you’ve seen —
a year from now my garden will be green.

Honorable Mention

Fall Day in the Park

by Esther Greenleaf Murer

In the lapidary light
of the sea, I am a flatfish
prostrate on the floor
of a cathedral, the eyes
on my back attuned
to the coruscation
of corals, polyps, bryozoa
swaying in the current’s sunlit blue.

Now on dancing eddies
I levitate in celebration,
vault and sweep and skew,
pitch and bank and camber
a hymn to overarching glory.
Then I sink again, canting
like a falling leaf, and rest

in the mud, where one day soon
my center eye will contemplate
the bare ruined reef while the other,
the wandering one, keeps watch
for green ghosts hovering
amid the welter of weeds.

  • 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