Winning Poems for October 2008

Judged by Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald

First Place

Ache

by Michael Creighton
The Waters

The year I turn 15, my father leaves me
with my just-widowed grandfather
and my first full-time summer job.
Each day in my lunch, I find fresh fruit

and a sandwich so fat it stretches
my jaw. Axe down, among rows
of old pine, I learn to love
the tang and bite of mustard on rye.

After work, I stay out with friends,
walking the town’s mile-long
main street, drinking cold soda,
looking for girls.

If he’s awake when I return
we discuss baseball,
the difference between jack pine
and white, or the pain

in my shoulders and neck.
He says, the Cubs haven’t won a pennant
since your mother was three
but there’s no harm in hope;

jack pine grows fast, but gives
poor wood–and as for that pain,
son, there is no cure for an ache like that,
save deep sleep and time.

Just once I come home early–
he is slumped in an old oak chair.
As he sleeps, his shoulders shake.
Dust hangs in sunlit air.


This was very close. It was almost a tie between first and second. We loved the rhythm of the poem, the story it told, and the conciseness of the writing. Its theme is both personal and universal. --Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald

Second Place

Convalescence

by Antonia Clark
The Waters

She lures him back by naming what he loves —
constellations, rivers — repeating days and dates,
drawing the drapes to make an island.

One year, she let him keep her from catching
trains. In another, she gave up seasides, long ago
stored her silk kimono away on a high shelf.

A long whistle wails from the trestle
but there is no place here to stop.


We loved the poetry and atmosphere evoked. This poem beautifully tells a story and creates a whole world in few words. The last image of the wailing of the train is a haunting one. --Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald

Third Place

Debris

by Ashura
Pen Shells

Wong
has no name of favor, but is called
for convenience the way a hill
is climbed or a floor
swept. She will not revere
your gods or walk
the guidance of your hands
When you turn her head she will resist
your intensity, your compulsions
And when your fingers stir
debris from your pockets
her exit will be
impersonal

Somewhere
on the cusp of her breath
there is tremolo
She hands it with flowers and a plastic
bucket filled with medicines to
the men in saffron who drip water
on her temples
and chant

while you wait on
the steps with her
shoes


This poem has a wonderful flow to it. There is something mysterious and fetching about it. It keeps the reader engaged and curious. --Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald

Honorable Mention

awake

by James Lineberger
Salty Dreams

until i turned seventy
i could still do it one leg
crooked around
the upper rung of an a-ladder extension
leaning back easy arms free
to hold the drill with both hands
and fasten a new board
covering up
a raccoon hole on the fascia at the rear
of the house but then

then

there comes a time when you struggle
out of bed
to discover you can’t accomplish
the familiar foolhardy
things you’re so accustomed to
and not even
your wife will applaud you now when it is she herself
trying to remember to walk
the dogs
and your daughter coming over
to mow the lawn

and you learn
it’s only in our dreams we have any
joy in this life
the nightmares lying awake
same as we

stretching their fucked-up knees to face the day



Honorable Mention

Compression

by Linda E. Cable
SplashHall Poetry

I was born somewhere between
tank parades, and blond step tables
adorned with oriental maidens
standing guard at picture windows.

The world turned hard and plastic
and the word was white.
It was lunch buckets, and fins at five o’clock,
gliding through cul-de-sacs.

Veterans scanned new laid sod for insurgents,
seeking rest on rayon sofas,
sustenance on TV tables,
quiet nights and just rewards.

One act plays were cast on patios,
blue collar boasts of Bradley and Patton,
housewives flouncing in skirts from Federals
to the tune of “Love Letters In The Sand.”

We seemed so pretty then,
living advertisements for Amana,
True Grit and American Bandstand,
crayon copies of black and white movie stars.

I came of age somewhere between
The Mickey Mouse Club and Dallas,
in the year alabaster figurines shattered
with the sound of the first gun shot.



Honorable Mention

Imagination of the Deflated Balloon

by Henry Shifrin
Wild Poetry Forum

The balloon lies marooned beside a stain
of a foot on an empty section of rug.

Smells of burned rubber where its tip
kissed a match. It had been so lonely
and the breeze, so gentle. The wind’s

hand lifted gracefully toward the flame,
warm but too warm. The balloon leaves
the moment to dream: it fills with air,

rises into the clouds. Grounded fog
depresses all it covers, but moving
through clouds has a holy chill.

The balloon populates the sky
with round bodies, remembers
the static lightning two bodies

can rub into being — the shock
that erases the space between them.
Realizes movement isn’t as necessary

as thought, and so it inflates a friend
it knew when they clung to the same

lamp post, over the happy-birthday
sign and compared the size
of their shadows.

This balloon always darkened
the ground more than others.

At least it dreamed it that way.



Honorable Mention

Musée de la Résistance – Vaucluse

by Adam Elgar
The Writer's Block

(Lavez les épluchures de pommes de terre, les jeter dans l’huile
bouillante. C’est aussi bien que les vraies frites.

Wartime advice on food economy, 1942 — from a newspaper on display
in the museum)

In truth it nobly celebrates defeat,
confronts the shame by putting it on show,
tells later generations how deceit
seeps into victims’ veins, makes sure we know

that victors try to put a price on air
and claim there never was a word for ‘free’.
Starvation is the trump card. Pommes de terre:
prochaine distribution — mardi.

It’s all about the lies that people tell
to keep themselves afloat till truth comes back.
When brutal fact says il n’y a plus de lait

you have to come up with a counter-spell,
revive the rage that we complacent lack.



Honorable Mention

Talk Like a Pirate Day*

by Catherine Rogers
poets.org

Arr, I say. Arr. My darling
is unimpressed. He twists
his face in ways I can’t
imagine and growls
AAAArrrrrrrrrrrgghh!
just like that. Scoundrel!
I love it when you talk
sea dog. The rest of the day
we go about calling each other
“Me hearty.” At supper,
he calls for grog. I tell him he’ll get
slop, and like it, or I’ll have him
keelhauled. He orders me
to swab the decks. I tell him
that’s the mate’s job. We talk
about whether we want a cabin boy
or girl–it doesn’t matter,
as long as it’s healthy and strong
enough to do the swabbing.
All day we’ve imagined parrots
and dirks and doubloons.
On the other side of midnight,
the quotidian looms
like Her Majesty’s man o’ war.
Tomorrow, I’ll be the one
with two earrings. He’ll have none,
and dress in gray. No matter;
tonight we unbuckle our swashes
and heave to. We rock together
at anchor, dreaming of plunder,
free and ferocious, all night long.

*An international holiday observed annually on September 19




  • 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