Winning Poems for January 2009

Judged by Elena Karina Byrne

First Place

New Neighbors

by Eric Rhohenstein
criticalpoet.org

Yellow jackets ascend like mortar fire from the cherry’s split trunk.

Spikes of fennel rise in the side yard,
where the garden was before the old man died;
his grandson somersaults through a choke of new clover.

The day is dry;
I should be cutting lawn.

        squirrel at the birdfeeder
        ground-skirt of grackles
        the village        the village!
        fire alarm hum        crescendo, and again

Much like autumn wind: product of a gavel falling.

    (Soon enough, the cherry’s branches set against a winter skin of sky)

Boy, do you hear the pop songs aging,
aging from kitchen windows?

    (Across Erie, the edge of Canada erupting from spring lake-mist)

Some things are broken before they’re ever bent,
but only some.

    (One day, the summery inside of a woman)

        hay-rolls at the velvet
        edge of vision        sunrise sunset
        and how it goes,
        and how it went.

As if this was the start of anything;
it’s only a lion’s mouth grown wider, wider, roaring.

Much like your mother’s: the logic of donning play-clothes, of not missing dinner.

        farmers’ daughters fatten up
        we sons of nothing much
        the village cream is drawn
        cup by cup        make whey! make whey!

Afternoon dogs sing the pressure of dawn.


"New Neighbors" ignites a fresh, sensory motion forward. At "the edge of vision" the poem revitalizes literal vision alongside the figurative vision of the mind's eye, "how it goes." Language in motion becomes a key process of seeing through an ever-changing domino-effect of metaphor: yellow jackets ascend, a grandson somersaults--crescendo, autumn wind, gavel falling and so on, until the poem reaches the marvelously mundane-sublime place where "dogs sing the pressure of dawn." --Elena Karina Byrne

Second Place

First Frost

by Christopher T. George
FreeWrights Peer Review

A last ochre magnolia leaf twitches
like the index finger of a dying man;

under the ginkgo, yellow leaves spread
& all the birds are in motion, swooping,

diving: robins, starlings, cardinals,
a brace of cheeky blue jays—o one vaults

into the magnolia like a trapeze
artiste and devours a bud.


"First Frost" is a Buddhist-like, automatopoetic polaroid view of nature, targeting our vulnerability of perennial-impermanence where a magnolia leaf "twitches like the index finger of a dying man." The use of assonance and subtle end rhyme keep the poem beautifully close-fisted, bud-like, ready to be devoured. --Elena Karina Byrne

Third Place

Dinner With the Ghost of Rilke

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

Come here, to the candlelight.
I’m not afraid to look on the dead.

I was confused by snakes looping
around your neck, the little girl voice that you had
to swallow in order to please your mother. I told you
as you twirled a red flag to draw away the slathering

wolves that you would never disappoint me.
The crumbling bridge where we said our goodbyes
all those years ago must even now contain
the echoes of our voices sleeping in its seams.

How many inexhaustible nights did I stay awake
to answer your letters? You asked me to steal something
risky, something I couldn’t take back across the street.

Greedy for praise I filled my pockets with
sugar. Outside the café the night becomes a snow globe.
Held in your gaze, winter takes me back.


"Come here" the beginning of "Dinner With the Ghost of Rilke" commands. Because of the strength of diction, we follow this instruction and immediately become participatory, complicit observers. Rilke's "necessary irrepressible... definitive utterance" colors the voice that is swallowed, a presence, nevertheless, heavy as two pockets full of sugar. --Elena Karina Byrne

Honorable Mention

Taste Buds of Children and Mock Adults

by Thane Zander
Blueline

We bleed on pavements decorated in childish flowers,
discharge our vehemence in toilet bowls swallowing
large tracts of shit, shyte, shovel it out and spread
onto a garden decorated with summers hues,

placate the dandelion as it swims aloft on wispy winds,
seeking Monarch Butterflies to caress in death throes,
excrete your discontentment on the laps of executives
when the family savings invested in stocks, tumble

like a dryer on spin cycle, the cold cycle reserved
for her husbands dying corduroys, the colour sticking
to off white socks and travel brochures from a back pocket,
ready to fly first class with crumpled shirts and dungarees

wearing thin around the butt, years of sitting at a computer
and conversing to faceless names, except the ones that lie
when they post an avatar of indifference and cheek, swallow
the last Rhubarb sandwich on a plate filled with regret and woes

leftover like a dying man’s left testicle after an operation to cure
the cancer of his family passed down to him, his brother long dead
and buried in another garden setting, flowers in pots and agee jars
no lid required, the dried arrangement last longer in summer’s sun,

We eat curdled milk, drink dipped honey crusties, pass the jam
so youngun’s can leave a bloody trail on the white tablecloth,
and the ants and bees can leave a tell tale sign of their visit,

my wife said she could smell ants,
me; I avoid bees like the plague.



Honorable Mention

Talking Terror

by Sachi Nag
The Writer's Block

On our way to Fundy City in ten
inches of snow, a familiar cab driver
asked me if I lost anyone in those sixty
hours of Mumbai.

We couldn’t take our eyes off
the Christmas lights, and the carols
on the airwaves, so haunting, we were feeling
kinship in the gravy of victimhood,

when the hardened ice beneath the slush
stunned the front tyres, and we skidded
rear-ending a parked van and spun
over the edge into a pile of snow

from last year. Strangers stopped by
with shovels and hooks, powering us out.
We dusted jackets, shook hands;
restarted, slow, almost like roadkill,

eyes riveted along the routine way –
now as sinuous as a strange
white feathered boa – the cabbie’s sure hands
shaking at the wheel.




  • 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
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  • July 2018 Winners

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      The First Time I Drank With My Father
      by Ken Ashworth
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      Second Place

      My Bicycle
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

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