Winning Poems for September 2007

Judged by Deborah Bogen

First Place


by Laura Polley
Desert Moon Review

I have put on a dress,
salted at the hemline

where the little waves
tug my ankles and run.

I can see the twitching
of the boardwalk from here.

Seagulls and tourists:
all bark and push.

Wind arranges everything.

A mime shouts opinions
from his personal cage.

I admire his courage.

There is melody in silence.
There’s an instinct of trees

nestled sad as a woodlouse
in those boardwalk veins.

I have put on a dress.

I am walking a coastline
between earth and invitation,

where strange heavy birds
carry human sounds away.

This poem takes description to the level of invocation as it creates a serious need in the reader to know the import of "I have put on a dress", a simple phrase now heavy with something we can neither name, nor turn away from. The poet's sure touch when portraying tourist and seagulls as "all bark and push" and the mime as shouting from "his personal cage" lull us into a calm which becomes oddly ominous as the poem closes with "I am walking a coastline/ between earth and invitation/where strange heavy bird/carry human sounds away." --Deborah Bogan

Second Place

Ghazal of the Honed Knife

by Sarah Sloat
Desert Moon Review

Undeceived, the body knows the gloom of her.

Right hand the usher, left hand the groom of her.

The fragrance of seasonings enfolds the house

but flesh stays attuned to the perfume of her.

Chair, sink and tablecloth compose a kitchen.

Knuckles, grip and thumb make a room of her.

Switchblade and jack, bread, bowie and pocket–

Christian names will ease into the loom of her.

Pale is the butter, soft ivory the brie;

but yielding knows how bright is the bloom of her.

Thanks to Agha Shahid Ali, the ghazal has entered American poetry's blood stream and this poem showcases the strength of the form. The poem's description of a knife engages us by providing the simple kitchen tool with a presence that is potent and palpable that can be read straightforwardly or as a metaphor. Both the title and ghazal's traditional focus on lost love incline me to the metaphoric reading, but either way, the poet's ease in handling the ghazal form (especially since it is done with a simple lexicon--no fancy "poetic" words here) is a delight. The last line satisfies our desire for the pleasure of both surprise and recognition. --Deborah Bogen

Third Place

Prohibited Disorder Kids

by Bill Brando
About Poetry Forum

the prohibited disorder kids
slide greasy
down the street
with their Kool-Aid hair and
black leather jangle
past buildings
with beerbreath doorways,
missing teeth,
staggering like old bums
pissing on yesterday’s news…
pitter patter patter
“dudn’t fuckin’ mattah, man,”
the motto when you’re beat–
cigarette burn chancres,
banana bruise knuckles
tenderizing vacant meat,
crunching scattered glass stars
under jackboot feet
beneath the switchblade moon–
“the world’s a fucking tomb, man…”
see the prohibited disorder kids
tromping rusted punk rock paradisio
corrosive soundtrack fast,
snuffed out slow
with no god but
white noise.

Making street-talk work in poems is an art, and this poet uses fantastic inner sound effects to do that, keeping the slangy phrases from becoming a prosey recitation. Take a look at "pitter patter patter/"didn't fuckin mattah, man,"" with its play on the pitter-patter of little feet, and "beneath the switchblade moon--the world's a fucking tomb, man.." followed closely by "tromping rusted punk rock...". The poem wisely interrupts what could be too much hip-hop sing-song with sections of free verse that call to mind what we've all seen, but not described quite so well, e.g., "the prohibited disorder kids/slide greasy/down the street". --Deborah Bogen

Honorable Mention

Bronx Swans

by Bernard Henrie
The Writer's Block

I have forgotten nothing: A sack lunch
and dried bread for the aging swan;
the underside stained burlap the color
of a Bronx pond; the anonymous traffic
on Canal street, the concrete bench
and park attendant clearing trash.

A woman who visited the shell basin
of our meeting place; a monotone
in the summer afternoon of gaps and sighs;
the azure turn of sky; the park slowed
to the barely visible gesture of the swan;
the brackish waft of wings and khaki feathers;

glazed beak stamped into dower mud
and soured water. The swan left out all night
alone as a man who fears an illness,
a porch light left burning with no one to see.

Honorable Mention

Indian Grass

by Rich Stewart
The Town

Night full of frog-song and stars.
Late summer moon slow to rise.
Indian grass whispers
like bamboo in the lonesome wind …
The deep midnight wind has a bite,
but baby, I could walk all night,
Lost darlin’. I could walk all night.

Loose gravel by the road,
some creature’s little pointed jaw,
fallen dogwood petals
glitter in such light
I could read if I wanted to;
there’s nothing that I want to read
nothing that I want to hear
this night.

Just old humaway songs
of lonesome whistle blow
and trucks on a distant highway
and of how
you might have picked me.

Now it’s just
white moonlight, flat on this flexed gravel road
and this weight in the crook of my arm
and an empty bedroom a mile behind
waiting for me to return.

If I did it tonight
the old people over the hollow
might stir in their big sagging bed.
Might say, that there was a shotgun.
Might say, there’s one old coon gone.
Might roll back into dreams.

If I walked back
far enough into the hills
how long might I lie
left alone?
Not long enough, I guess,
for my bones to rise out clean
and bleach white with the possums and deer.

Honorable Mention

Once Upon a Time

by Eric Linden
Mosaic Musings

A herd of cows with calves in tow
now graze this meadow, where,
not many years ago
the two of us wandered,
looking for elusive four-leafed clover
to bring us luck.

The golden balsamroot of early spring

had burst in bright abandon
like stardust
sprinkled by wee forest folk
who rule the mystic woodlands.

Then later on, roses, wildwood roses
graced our much loved hills
where we would stroll,
enjoying sunshine days
in nature’s freedom.

Aspen leaves turned gold,

grasses withered,
autumn winds brought frosty nights,
and rose hips blushed in scarlet.

Along their dusty trails

where once we sought
four-leafed clover,
cows now wander.

  • 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