Winning Poems for April 2008

Judged by Patricia Smith

First Place

A Second Look at Creation

by Sergio Lima Facchini
poets.org

Every biped, crawler and slitherer; every daybreak
fast-forwarding past the solstice; every afternoon that loses
momentum as it plods into evening; every child born
logical and cerebral, proud to be gifted,
bright as Andromeda and Cassiopeia; every planet in the universe,
comets, black holes,
their combined gravitational pull,
pulling on each of the five known elements: earth, water,
fire, air, and yellowing passion fruit;
every pediment, apse, nave, narthex, effigy, oracle,
pyramid, every all-seeing
eye; every crease and whorl on a palm;
every hand that holds money and is diligent,
hard-working, closed to commitments;
all of those, along with matches, hydraulic presses,
arguments, salt water,
and the admirable number pi, took long,
sweeping strokes to be made, one by one,
as God was going through multiple life crises,
barely surviving each brainstorm.

How many times he’s come back from the brink of losing face,
such as when in the midst of a heated debate
over who made what and to what purpose, a sudden
gust of wind blew off his skullcap,
exposing a bald spot
high in the crown.
But for the most part he’s feeling good;
he’s glad it’s spring even if it means he must restart from scratch,
trying to convince things buried and burrowed
to come back up, saying tongue-in-cheek
it will be different
this time.


I immediately fell in love with this submission's lyrical momentum--building a narrative, building a defense, building a remarkably fresh view of an old story. I was intrigued by the poem's sweet science, hurtling toward a who-knows-what crescendo--and in the end, we have a tentative, warmly human deity struggling with his confidence, pulling in a weary breath and beginning again. I read every poem I encounter out loud, listening for the magic it works on the open air, and this one was a particular joy--deftly avoiding preachiness and predictability with bright, rollicking language. --Patricia Smith

Second Place

Spring Dance

by Brenda Levy Tate
criticalpoet.com

Route 22 ripples to an axle beat as the red pickup approaches.
Puddles pulse, wheels veer, water arcs like a tide
parting before the F-150’s tire hiss. Beer cans snicker
beneath ice-wire-wink.

Sleet coats cables, gone by noon. Pavement’s a mosaic –
broken headlights, embedded pennies. Mouse bones crunch
under Goodyear studs.

First tractor out of the yard wallows with a pulmonary
wheeze in muck stubble. Field’s black, twisted
as abandoned shirts. An old collie three-legs it
down the chain track because that’s what he was born to do.

In a heifer-gnawed grove behind the loafing shed,
deer scrabble snow crust under bare oaks;
limbs scratch cloudskins. Mated robins drop
sky bits onto dull moss. New melt trinkles
and plishes off the gambrel-roof barn.

On the porch step, farmboy smooths his trout filament
between forefinger and thumb, feeds it into the Shakespeare
with a handful of hope.

The day flows around him — river and rock –while mother
sings from her clothesline, “Fare thee well, love,”
hazel gaze a salamandrine fire that burns what it touches.

He listens, furrows deep as plowed dirt
above his eyes; matches reel spin to wash-pulley creak.

Milkroom radio chatters about foreclosures, lost soldiers
and protests against a mine two counties away. Fishhook
snags the little fellow’s thumb.

Long driveway rasps its monotone; gravel shoulders shrug
still-frozen clods into ditches. Muddy Ford swerves,
bumps over brushcut lawn, halts beside a lattice arbor
where rambling roses will soon explode like ruptured hearts.

Woman-song stops. She turns – sliced lemon smile –
carries her laundry basket, sets it down carefully.
Then she straightens to confront the truck, but won’t glance
at her son. Not even once.

Out on bleeding earth, her husband inhales the dark
diesel, whistles off-key. “This will be no ordinary April,”
he assures his crippled dog.


Densely atmospheric story of earthly and personal rebirth; I was particularly drawn to the poet's daring, the deft creation of pinpoint phrasing that conjured EXACTLY the image needed. Snickering beer cans. Ice-wire-wink. The collie actually "three-legs it." And plishes. That is not, NOT in the dictionary, and it friggin' well should be. This is like the wide, opening cinematic shot, a huge story in a nutshell, and the last line resonated in a hopeful but chilling way. Geez. --Patricia Smith

Third Place

Boy, Winter 2008

by Mike LaForge
criticalpoet.com

You can’t hear my voice, thousands of hands away,
smoke-shred and husky, broken as knuckles.

Boy, I’ve punched through pine and ribs, shouted
down the black mountain, bled on concrete, stone

and shoals of snowy paper. Today, there’s a screw-
topped winter in my backpack, made of glass.

I sip from it when your telephoned voice cuts me
backward to your first clear word, your first

poor Christmas. I don’t forget how your new fingers
gripped my wrinkled shirt, your birth-scars, your fear

of water and the loud sound. My hands wring circles
around this cold green bottle while your hands shape

crooked snowmen, frozen daddies. Warm,
they reach and touch your mother’s face.

Soon, and I’ll be there, you’ll hoist your own pack,
my boy, strike hard into a greening world.


I was pulled headfirst into this tale of a repentant but hopeful father and his longed-for son--I wanted more, craved more, but I don't believe that was a shortcoming of the poem. I enter every poem hungering for a tale, and when that tale is as terse and straightforward as this one, I feel slighted. But I also feel that somewhere, in that rollicking parallel universe where the wishes of wordsmiths are paramount, the lives of these two people--especially the father, whose trek homeward is already scripting in my head-go on well beyond the poem. --Patricia Smith

Third Place

18–Again

by Cherryl E. Garner
SC Writers Workshop

Big-lipped mincing — mind’s eye —
that perfect Brown Sugar bass
boot thump at the light — only
my plasticchrome volume button
on the stock FM, black toggles,
turned me, 18-up.

Only cross winds in car cabin,
blue-shine Chevy, carried best
shrilly teeny angst, atomic-rocket
wrench, the turn of menses
into red power in free air
and wild, skin-pocked riot.


As someone who is trying (with varying levels of success) to reverse a reputation for rampant wordiness (not to mention sudden spates of alliteration), I've always envied conciseness that embraces huge vision. This little poem roots the reader squarely in a time and mindset; each little line is dense with atmosphere. And "...the turn of menses into red power..." Amazing. --Patricia Smith


  • 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

  • June 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Poem in Exile in the Style of Neruda
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      Either February or March
      by Brenda Morisse
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Accidental Writer
      by Bernard Hamel
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Mouse in April’s Winter
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      Sister Valeria
      by Siva Ramanathan
      The Writer's Block

      Honorable Mention

      My Trip: The Last Siona Dream
      by Don Schaeffer
      Babilu