Winning Poems for December 2007

Judged by E. Ethelbert Miller

First Place

Ruth in Ward 3A Imagines Herself as a Tree

by Brenda Levy Tate
Pen Shells

Before first light, I slip into a spruce—
its roots (and mine) old ropes that tie the clay
to bind me gently, while the stars infuse
me with a balm of resin, salt and spray.

My blood is balsam now, and moves as slow
as sunrise. With a prickling in my chest,
the alto sap upwells and spreads; its low
ring-singing stirs the shorebirds from their rest.

Below me wheel the herring gulls and hawks
that drift toward my cliff. A willet cries
above the pearling tide, and on the rocks
a stranger’s cat holds morning in her eyes.

I shed my bark as dawn releases me.
Tomorrow, I shall dream myself the sea.


I like the title of this poem and how it works with the sonnet structure. One is pulled into the world of mental illness and it's the world of nature as well as imagination. This is a poem of transformation and a rejection of restrictions. Ruth is able to escape the hospital ward. The closing couplet makes this poem a winner. I want Ruth to believe she is the sea tomorrow. --E. Ethelbert Miller

Second Place

Northland Solstice

by Eric Linden
Mosaic Musings

Snow lay deep that cold December
on my Dawson City home,
shrouding mountains, lakes and rivers
far and wide, including Nome.

Not much moved; our world was frozen
from Old Crow to Watson Lake.
Even ravens had forsaken
this harsh land, for pity’s sake.

Darkness dwelled; it stopped and dallied,
swallowed up the midnight sun.
How I cursed this devil northland
and its grip I couldn’t shun.

Came the day I went out walking;
all was quiet, skies pale blue;
in the woods, those white-clad pine trees
sparkled like old Manitou.

Could it be that I heard carols
coming from those soundless hills?
Solstice in this frigid northland
spells more, brighter winter chills.


What would Jack London think of this poem? Here is the Yukon. Dawson City a place where people went looking for gold? This poem however captures the moment more than history. One is a witness to the landscape and seeing its beauty through the eyes of a poet. Nothing moves -- except the language. What lies beyond the cold and darkness? What brighter winter chills? I like the question this poem asks -- "Could it be that I heard carols/coming from those soundless hills?" --E. Ethelbert Miller

Third Place

Crossing at Night

by Maryann Corbett
The Waters

The rain-slick road
that multiplied
the rush of light.
The striding void,
man-shaped, vague
as something sighed,
suggestive, rogue.
So nearly nothing.
Does even he
believe his own
solidity,
ghosting across
the dark ahead?
Closer. Close.
The grip, the gasping
cry brake skid
the pounding chest
aware, aware
in an emptiness
of something there.


I found this poem haunting in a mystical sense. Since I don't know how to drive, I've never experienced that need to avoid something on a rain-slick road. Still, I like how this poem is almost crafted to resemble a road. Lines seem to collapse on each other. The words "void," "vague," "nothing" and "emptiness" increase the blackness of the night. What is the shape of things unseen? What do we fear at the crossing? --E. Ethelbert Miller

Honorable Mention

My Mother’s Bones

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

When I crawled through my mother’s bones
I’d like to say, they were bent over me

like birches, that the tips of her pelvis-march
scraped against me in that narrow place.

But babies aren’t made this way. Beauty is messy;
the dark box I return to just before I wake

is a field with a thatched cupboard, every kind of leaf
as if she collected me among these pressed wax

paper plates. I’d seen tall, holy trees in Muir Forest
and me on my swaying stem, a Lady’s orchid,

her newest treasure, swaddled and given
up to her in a room with open windows. Crushed

yellow and scarlet autumn hands reached in
and settled on our laboring bed. Rust ripped the sheets,

they’d call me an autumn flower. Candles sputtered
and grew down, white and pure and healing.

Each relative and ghost was there. She cradles me.
She holds my soul over a flame. This life is messy,

Mother. I carry your bones in a paper sack
like a picnic lunch. When I release us

to the air we tumble like acrobats, blister
the hardened earth with our fall.



Honorable Mention

Mersey Mersey Me

by Christopher T. George
Desert Moon Review

Mum, you have asked that I cast
your ashes in the River Mersey,
the muddy Mersey I see broil
behind as you stand windblown
on the Pier Head landing stage,
Seacombe ferry surging to nudge
giant tires with a rubbery kiss
as sailors tie the ferry up,
the muddy Mersey that flowed
down the bottom of our road,
at Otterspool prom: expanse
of sun-glinting gooey flats
at low tide decorated with
ditched pram, kiddie’s bike:
scene I painted in the Sixties,
that hung in your living room, til
I gave it to grass-high friends.
Mersey Mersey me, I think of
you as I attend a Ripper event
in a big white marquee beside
the Liverpool Cricket Club:
rain clouds sweeping in from
the distant Welsh hills, over
the Mersey’s whitecapped waves,
past the benign cream stucco
walls of Battlecrease House,
where lived James Maybrick,
who may have been the Ripper,
Mersey Mersey me, I think of
you as I scatter your ashes.



Honorable Mention

Time Gone Cold

by Linda Balboni
Mosaic Musings

The time has gone, my heart’s grown cold,
I miss your love and stories told,
your smiling face, like golden dawn,
my heart’s grown cold, the time has gone.

Our talks at night, your gentle voice
to spill my soul, your ears, my choice,
dear dad, your laughter made things right,
your gentle voice, our talks at night.

How deep the ache through tearful eyes,
to know you’ve left, can’t share our ties,
a plan from God, your soul to take,
through tearful eyes, how deep the ache..

For all my life, I will believe
your presence guides me, yet I grieve
for you to be here; end my strife,
I will believe, for all my life.




  • 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
      Babilu