Winning Poems for February 2008

Judged by Fleda Brown

First Place

Unmarked Grave

by Lois P. Jones
Pen Shells

All I want is a single hand,
A wounded hand if that is possible.

–Federico Garcia Lorca

Beautiful man, with your brows of broken ashes
and eyes that migrate in winter,

a hollow in your hand
where the moon fell through.

I could have kissed your mouth,
passed an olive with my tongue,
the aftertaste of canaries on our breath.

But the shriek of the little hour
is spent, and there is no road back.

The day it happened
there were no good boys
or dovecots filled with virgins,

just a sun imploding
like a sack of rotten oranges,

the scent of basil
from the grove near your home
and the piano that still waits for you.

No one will remember
the coward who shot you,
but the sheets,

the white sheets you sail on,
coming home.


I'm drawn to this poem from the first line--the "brows of broken ashes"--and continue to be delighted and surprised line after line by the fresh metaphors. This poem is all poem. It holds me aloft in its language. The death of Federico Garcia Lorca is made present, a "sun imploding/ like a sack of rotten oranges." I can only quote lines from this fine poem, which deserves not to be rendered into prose. The poem's ending is brilliant, "but the sheets,/ the white sheets you sail on, / coming home." How much more perfect can an ending be, for Lorca, and for us? --Fleda Brown

Second Place

1980

by Mitchell Geller
Desert Moon Review

Before the South End had been gentrified
and not a single latte had been brewed
on Tremont Street’s still raffish, dodgy side
there was, on Union Park, an interlude

of wanton joy we later saw collapse;
a brief, Edenic interval of grace
before the second-hottest guy at “Chaps”
bore lurid lesions on his handsome face,

and soon, in weeks too sickeningly swift,
required — at thirty — that bony white cane.
Six short months and his mind began to drift,
in gaunt, enfeebled, piteous waves of pain.

We soon, alas, grew used to sights like this,
the idyll having changed to an abyss.


When a sonnet is good, it holds in a great deal of passion, using the struggle of the lines to keep it from flying apart in anguish. Here is a poem, maybe the only one like this I've seen, that eulogizes the "Edenic interval" before AIDS began its rampage in the gay communities. The voice in the poem is authentic, the language interesting ("Tremont Street's raffish, doggy side") and sometimes perfect--"that bony white cane." Although the couplet feels weaker than the rest, the end-rhymes "like this" and "abyss" do exactly what they need to do, pull us into the darkness. --Fleda Brown

Third Place

Séance

by Adam Elgar
The Writer's Block

               I

Is anyone there?

Yes

In the scent that purrs
along the folds
of these old clothes

and in the sting
of happiness
remembered

Gather round

Interrogate
the tender fossils
heaped in this casket

splinters
from a translucent slipper

feathers
from a drowned lover’s wing

teeth and fingernails
hinted against the skin

a trace of distant birdsong

          missing     missing

an inheritance of knives
and so many kinds of hunger

                         over everything
lies a patina of stifled rage

We are this also

               II

Is anyone there?

Of course

Commemorated
reverently framed
too intimate with God

Look how he shoulders faith
like a loaded rifle
certainty at odds
with memory’s sepia smudge

Here they all line up
these dry and bone-hard joys
fit for hate-darkened lovers

It all begins at dead of night
a whimpering boy
sure only of sleep
and danger

We are that also


I can't say exactly what the narrative of this poem is, except for the séance, but I'm delighted with where the short stanzas take me. As in a trance, I'm listening for what's missing--all the kinds of hunger and of rage that we're made of, that we've stifled, commemorated, even. The poem "purrs/ along the folds/ of these old clothes" to touch on, to barely suggest, what one enters a séance to obtain--some connection with the world just out of reach, the one that is like a loaded rifle, which probably resides within us. The whimpering boy that ends the poem is, the poem tells us, the beginning of what's stifled. --Fleda Brown

Honorable Mention

Black Man Carrying Alligator Briefcase

by Bernard Henrie
The Writer's Block

Only I know how my heart feels,
to lose from the beginning
and gain slowly, to give away
with both hands.
To enter rooms that fall silent.
The withering looks
and absentminded curiosity.
I listen, but fail to speak.

The cascading loneliness,
the deluge of expectations,
the grades and judgments
which leave me empty.

The feeling is not new,
but expressing the feeling is new;
I write more often in my diary book,
scribble to myself, gawk at myself,
fix a permanent record of what I know.

I smile like a man from the country
wearing the wrong clothes in the city.
Or when you leave work early
but miss your train and rest
on a bench in the idle station.



Honorable Mention

Hawaiian Chicken (not a recipe)

by Alice Folkart
Blueline

A fine flock of feral chickens
flutter and budget beside Pali highway.

Feathers ruffle, rusted by the rain
downy breasts blackened by mildew.

Rooster-king alert, proprietary, bright-eyed,
herds wind-up chicks toward the hen-harem.

Tiny brains in weensy heads search out
tasty tidbits, wriggling worms, juicy grubs.

Scratching, slicing with skeletal yellow feet
in the rotted leaves at the very edge of tangled forest.

Raging traffic roars a foot away,
as unreal to them as distant galaxies are to us.



Honorable Mention

Stoma

by Laurie Byro
About Poetry Forum

The bag my mother carries coos
like a muffled baby owl. She hides it on
her side like a purse with gold and silver
coins left to spend. When she moves it gurgles

like a sooty faced bird, more raven than eagle.
She is self conscious, afraid it will fly away
without her. She fears her life will be set loose
like a snake in its hungry beak. What is left,

after the surgeons cut part of her away,
is this graceless winged woman, a white gown
instead of plumes, a thatch of broken weeds.

The doctor has no magic tricks up his sleeves. She sits
on her nest incubating regret, hums while morning
streaks the sky red. She waits on her little clay throne.




  • 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