Winning Poems for May 2009

Judged by Duncan Mercredi

First Place


by Tim Blighton
Desert Moon Review

for Karen

What can I do? My fingertips have rope burns,
but the sky has been quiet for days. Nightly,
I roam a sea of barstools with nothing more
than shot glasses for ballast, while all doors exit

into a spinning compass of neon stars
and vomit. Sometimes, the difference
between coursing the tradewinds or drifting alone
is an unspoken lie between strangers.

The eye accepts all it can: the glare
of snow, the black of velvet
in a ring case, or the old note
on a steamy mirror. Without light

we would have less to presume. We
might accept our accidents and causality
as reminders that we can’t always
see where we’re going.

The moon is a busker, borrowing as it travels.
I contemplate light refracting in the empty
glass in front of me. The bartender leaves
the bottle; from the counter, it is fluorescent.

You find me in a mouth of sediment, worn
by the sun’s returning tides. Your hair is hemp
woven with lilacs and anchored
to your prayer beads, dangling between

us. I sink, unable to decide. Your hands
open into a butterfly (mariposa you say).
The narrow alleys flood with snow-melt. Your smile,
angular and nomadic, is cast

into the busy streets as you turn. Let me release
your hair and draw it close; let me set sail.

"I roam a sea of barstools with nothing more than shot glasses for ballast, while all doors exit into a compass of neon stars and vomit." The above line by itself says it all. I have been there, I have sat next to this writer in every seedy bar, in every dive and have met all those night time companions that he hints have accompanied him on that great journey into the darkest recesses of humanity. Yet somehow he finds a beauty in this place and I too have found that same peace with these strangers. He just says it better than I could though I have tried. --Duncan Mercredi

Second Place

Evidence Hanging on a Rusty Nail

by Brian J. Mackay
Moontown Cafe

I found your old football boots this morning;
they were hanging on a rusty nail in the shed
next to my spare salmon fly rod.
Cobwebs stretched from lace to lace
and trailed from rubber studs like filigree.

You stored your trophies in a stained tea chest,
so I searched for evidence of silver laurels.
Each medal had a photograph for a partner;
black and white smiles from young boys,
all victorious, all proud of their triumphs.

The shed was dressed in dust and memorabilia;
shirts and socks and shorts, tiny rags for grimy
windows. Its boards were rotting and hinges
collapsing through years of careless abandonment
and sadness. I knew you couldn’t take me, brother.

I held your old football boots this morning,
they were where you always left them.
I’m going to polish them today, or tomorrow;
but now, I stroke the fifty franc statue you bought
in Lourdes, and rest my brow on your blue pillows.

How many times as one dug out old photographs and recalls days of laughter and tears? Well words can do the same, "each medal had a photograph for a partner" each line bringing with it a sense of loss, a feeling of sadness. Then another line, " I held your old football boots this morning, they were there where you always left them" and a smile forms recalling happier days. There is sadness here, some tears and hope, hope that somehow dressing up the old boots will bring a sense of closure. --Duncan Mercredi

Third Place

The Marsh at Dusk

by Steve Meador
FreeWrights Peer Review

I enter the marsh
with a rabbit’s foot,
a four leaf clover
and knowledge that evening
arrives from the west.
When the sun rests on the tallest reeds
I turn and carry it on my back.
My senses, stropped by adrenaline,
will lead me to the fleece of safety.
I taste thunder before it coagulates,
smell rain as it gathers in clouds.
A moccasin’s yawn rivals the bellow
of a fire-breathing bull. Gurgling,
from a gator’s nostrils, magnifies through
valleys of cattail stems, reaches my ears
as harpie screams. If scraping happens
along tectonic plates, I will feel it.
Every splash and swish of the paddle
whips up a tornadic whirlpool.
Dusk evaporates. Fear bubbles
like magma, hardens in my kayak’s wake.
Once the plane to open water is broken
I turn the bow toward the sulfurous
throat that wants to swallow me
and laugh, like an Argonaut come home.

Coming from a small northern village before the advent of modern conveniences, a line such as " when the sun rests on the tallest reeds, I turn and carry it on my back" resonates within me and I remember walking in the reeds as a child seeing only the sun and sky above me. This work stirs those feelings and I travel back to those innocent times and that magnificent gift we've been given, imagination. --Duncan Mercredi

Honorable Mention

Dad Never Read Novels

by Christopher T. George
FreeWrights Peer Review

He was more of a Newsweek,
Huntley-Brinkley-Cronkite man,
but before he died when ill he read
steamy big gamehunter type novels,
on the scent of rhino and cougar.

Dad would rage about the plots
just like he’d rage at the news and
the folk who “climb on the taxpayer’s
back.” I found a couple of saucy
paperbacks hidden in his closet,
checked the well-thumbed bits.

He read my would-be novel,
offered persnickety edits,
always missed the big picture,
complained that I was being mildly
porno (tho’ it was more pun-
ography). He had begun life as

an English socialist, grousing
about Harold Macmillan and
people who “never had it so good.”
Argued about America’s need for
socialized medicine. But latterly

he’d developed a passion for
talk radio. I feel certain
he’d long forgotten Labour.
I have the notion that today
he’d love Rush Limbaugh.

Honorable Mention

The absence of spaces between words

by Alexandre Nodopaka
Pen Shells

Trying to sustain my carnal hunger
from your single line response
I wrung myrrh and frankincense
from every letter of each word.

And when those exhausted
I darted my tongue on the punctuation
and like a chameleon I snatched
the single period ending your sentence.

All that did was water my mouth
inviting me to latch onto the spaces
separating your words and while trying
to reunite them by licking off the voids

I constructed an uninterrupted phrase
further enhanced by connecting with a twist
the ending to its beginning thus forming
a Mobius I entered skillfully its infinity.

Honorable Mention

Her obituary picture will look nothing like her

by Alex Stolis
Wild Poetry Forum

the children will say it’s because she likes to talk
about hearts, their shape and texture, how they are
simple but never quite within reach. Her hands
are unsettling, she is aware of her mouth, aware
that everyone expects sadness and when the clock
strikes the hour it brings with it the sound of a train,
the feeling of dust and the sweet taste of his sweat.
She was eighteen, refused to be contained, he knew
how even a thin veneer of pride could shatter a man
in two; being lost together didn’t feel out of place.
Sometimes, when he was sound asleep she would
watch him breathe, imagine they were on an ocean
liner traveling to Europe, illicit lovers running away
from long-established conventions, breaking their
own rules because they could. There were gravel
roads and cotton dresses, long-neck beers and no
need for second chances and on clear summer days
she swore she could see all the time in the world
glisten in the corner of his eye.

  • 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