Winning Poems for November 2007

Judged by E. Ethelbert Miller

First Place

First Born

by Ellen Kombiyil

(after Jean Valentine)

How deep your sea movements inside
Fisting open and open, my child,
My twin heart, covered in lanugo,
Fish-tailed, transparent, my loveliest
Memory-stain; I waited for
Your somersaults in the shower,
Or was that my own tilting,
I touched my breasts — how tender!
And imagined you curled in the dark,
My hardening, smooth belly, both of us
Ripening; dreams mere shapes,
And you the center Rorschach blot,
Dreams of my future, dreams of my past,
Or were they yours, all blotted,
And no one to tell me how to pass the time,
The Jewish ladies at the Y shouting, mach shnel,
Already! gone, gone, all excuses,
Your weight pressing on me, you
Filling out, carving the air,
Me, emptying, blood-marked,
Your tidal song seared down and scored,
How deep your fisting; your ink,
How dark! as we began.

Was I once covered in lanugo? This poem is celebratory and wonderful. If you're a man you might want to exchange your body for one that is female. Here the beginning of birth is documented in words. I like how culture and community tiptoes into this poem. I can see and hear the Jewish women--oh, how wise they are. --E. Ethelbert Miller

Second Place

Bird Painter

by Guy Kettelhack
About Poetry Forum

I didn’t use to like the ones with birds in them—
she’d paint alluring skies and water—minerally
brimming glints—then seem to feel she had
to punctuate their ambiguity with some expected

order—carefully assorted gulls: culled illustrations
out of greeting cards—obligatory birdies dotting
gleaming shards of sky and sea to add cliché
to the topography: some expected notion of what

ought to be above, beyond, around an ocean:
turned the beach from vague-and-haunting-lone
to Jones. But I was an elitist prig. Now I look at
each meticulously painted sprig of wing and breast

and tail and beak: and almost hear my mother
speak: each fine careful flying thing belies her
death: bears witness to what’s left—lifts the gulls
and deftly keeps them up: her artist’s breath.

The voice in this poem had an artist for a mother. Memories survive death. How often do we overlook the work, the creativity of one's parents. Why are we so critical of their lives? If we could see with their eyes, we would understand the beauty of birds. We would discover our own wings. --E. Ethelbert Miller

Third Place

The Gravity of it Beautiful

by Melanie G. Firth
Wild Poetry Forum


the length
of your sleeve. Pause ripens
everywhere. Silence,
as in ‘dead silence’,

is a lie.
Under your collar
is a heart-to-heart, think
of the skin, the only talk whispered

just there. And then stifled,
choked, the lover’s spit razed
to leave you unloved.
I can almost taste. that.

clambering. pause. as it hastens
to shout in palms
you now hide.
moist (the gravity of it…)

escapes this new design.
Flung loose like an epitaph
alight in trees, speaks ‘…

I was pulled into this poem by its title and first line. The punctuation kept stopping me in unexpected places. Nothing wrong with that. By the third stanza I was a sucker for love. --E. Ethelbert Miller

  • August 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The World Is Moist in the Morning
      by Terry Ofner
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Epitaph
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      I kissed a tree
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

  • July 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The First Time I Drank With My Father
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Bicycle
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      J. Alfred Prufrock Searches for Mrs. Right
      by Laurie Byro