Winning Poems for March 2009

Judged by Elena Karina Byrne

First Place

I, Raptor

by Brenda Levy Tate
Pen Shells

You feed me river rocks, oak bark logged with rain,
a braid of fence wire (grandfather-bone-thin), its barbs
worn to knots. For you, I swallow green bottle stems

the sea has thrown up, blond baleen hair, antler points.
My guts bracket your conglomerate: blood iron, hardwood
ash, pith. Keratin dull as barn windows. Fish-scale mica.

These are the last castings of desire, tossed at night like horns
off some buckdevil. A pockled egg rises from stomach to throat.
I wet it with your laugh, one final drink for you, then hack

a hawk-man pellet. Pwckk! Its heavy oval sinks like a cone
into pine needles. I fly light, easy. You make a rare bolus,
my compacted love. What stranger’s hand will break you?

This dense, strange persona poem, "I, Raptor," emerges within the language of nature and its almost ancient "pith," so that the words themselves are as physical as the things they name. This reminds me of the painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo hybrid nature-men representing the seasons or Hieronymus Bosch and the dark "conglomerate" collection of dark images which penetrate the psyche. The final surprise line serves the poem well and startles us into a sudden present tense knowledge. --Elena Karina Byrne

Second Place


by Lynze
Salty Dreams

your face warm against the curve
of my neck. a palm, a panic, a circuit
breaker, closing, when we are
the beating of wings in cove. your nude

foot balanced on the rim of metal
outside a door that opens at a word.
the word is look, the door is yes. lips
fold into my heart, a strip mine. the no

that i could not say. powerless
in the wan sun, clouds with fire
inside, mouth on my thigh. your wrist
a river, banking in flight. the creek

in your arm, the water of my body.
the questing banks we follow with
a snorkel, a mask, a school of minnows
that tick frantically. explosion.

the slow melt of snow over crocus —
my eye, falling into yours.

The title "deliquesce" is the verb form of a scientific term for minerals (especially salts) that "have a strong affinity for moisture" so the poem re-enacts an alchemy that transforms this kind of affinity, an intimate experience where language and image fold into one another in a liquid-like solution of surrealistic transference. "Deliquesce" plays on linguistic expectations and delights in a fall-out of images where "the door is a yes," the "yes" that Wallace Stevens once said, "the future world depends," and here, where the very nature of sight is also a process of feeling upon which we depend. --Elena Karina Byrne

Third Place

Double Vision

by Susan B. McDonough

“Only after the last tree has been cut down, Only after the last river has been
poisoned, Only after the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find
money cannot be eaten.”
~ Cree Prophecy

The forest looks for its branches,
bark removed, smooth edges chase
ridges. Empty air. Stumps settled;
discs waiting on a checker board
asleep on a mossy forest floor.

The river a sleepy serpent: a trail
of exploitation and corruption.
Well wishers float on their backs
fore-cast in a logger’s chagrin.
Skeletons lock arms heading beyond
waterfall’s roar past a bend
where only mud will swim.

Iridescent fish are slipped inside
already thick pockets. Eyes that can’t rest
remain suspended, weighty; a watch hung
from a chain. It tic tocs through the 70’s, 80’s 90’s…
The water continues to rise and fall without
pomp and circumstance until it bleeds opaque;
so thick that we cannot find our feet.

Pollution and deforestation, this poem's overall important theme thickens in our veins where, really "only mud will swim" with Rachel Carson's ghost. The lines "Well-wishers float on their backs/ fore-cast in a logger's chagrin" and "iridescent fish are slipped inside/ already thick pockets," using assonance and internal rhyme, musically target the poem's underlying tone. Image for image, the importance of this geo-political idea successfully veers from didacticism. --Elena Karina Byrne

  • May 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      I think of the colour purple
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Swimming in Twilight
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      In another country with strangers
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

  • April 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Furiously Overcome by Stars
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Ides of March
      by Rachel Green
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      Natural History
      by Antonia Clark
      The Waters