Winning Poems for November 2009

Judged by Majid Naficy

First Place

Certain in my Immortality – 1947

by Alice Folkart

The park public pool, huge and blue,
even in polio season my favorite place,
everyone taking the same risks equally,
and the wise lifeguards, maybe sixteen at best
shouted, little girl, little girl, get back to the shallow end.

We couldn’t see the polio germs in the blue water,
nor clinging to our sun-reddened backs,
nor beaded on our eyelashes, nor between our little toes,
so we paid no mind to the calls of ‘little girl, little girl,’
and went on swimming where the water was darker blue.

Maybe those polio germs got some of those kids,
maybe the blond boys with freckles on their noses,
the ones who had water fights at the other end of the pool,
the ones who also didn’t listen to the life guards’ shouts
of, “Hey, guys, knock it off! No water fights.

Maybe those polio germs got the fat lady in the flower-petal swim cap,
or the old man with the belly as big as a whole baby pig,
or the skinny old woman, all angles like an erector set,
but they didn’t get me and they didn’t get the life guards
and I swam every day that summer, certain in my immortality.

Polio is associated with water. Remember FDR. While sailing in Canadian territory in 1921, he fell into the water. After getting on board he felt a chill, and in two days, was paralyzed from the waist down. The narrator's memory belongs to 1947, when the polio vaccine was not yet available. Now that swine flu is circulating, there is one more reason to relate to this beautiful and meaningful poem. Perhaps the poet is being ironic, because in spite of imminent danger, she speaks of a sense of immortality. Nevertheless, the polio situation is similar to any other risk-taking experience that we face in life. We usually cross our fingers, hope for the best, and assume that the misfortune will not fall upon ourselves. --Majid Naficy

Second Place

String theory (Shrodinger’s coffin)

by Jessica Haynes
Moontown Cafe

in and out,
ribs up and ribs down
like a flexible cage

It’s strange,
at least I think,
how many pretty phrases
English has
for ”dead”.

so maybe
if string theory can be trusted
(my heart on a broken thread)
if I never see you lying there
(skin like lilies after frost
hands like too soft marble)
if I never hear the words
(passed away, to a better place
so sorry, such a tragedy)

maybe I can bring you back;
if I can only
which thread to follow
which one to tug
like yarn in a labyrinth
I’ll string it
through the darkness
so you can follow it home.

One does not have to know the "string theory" as a mathematical theory for describing the properties of fundamental particles or Erwin Schrodinger, the Austrian physicist, in order to enjoy this touching and whimsical poem. Our poet approaches the question of "death" similar to the views of my countryman Omar Khayyam, with the difference that Khayyam sees the fate as a puppeteer and our poet as a modern physicist. The ending is especially playful, when the poet wants to shake a string through which the deceased can find his way back home. --Majid Naficy

Third Place


by Sarah J. Sloat
Desert Moon Review

Rorschach of the laundry sack –

I pinch your bottom and some see
the long maw of the crocodile
in a shadow play

or a primitive insect, a locust,
maybe a mother who won’t let go.

Little intimate of the bedclothes,
into your muzzle go rags
and nightgowns, trappings and briefs,

gnawed but not pierced,
not discussed, not disclosed.

Could you speak, your voice
might be twang or chirp, but
you come from the church that touts

shut your trap as first commandment,
a monk’s tongue sworn to silence.

When your joint snaps,
when it rejects resting ajar, all
that is conjured is the clack

of a castanet, terse, reluctant,
a foot stamped to discourage dance.

Second cousin to the mousetrap,
tense and cunning as a Gemini,
you’re yin/yang with an oral fixation

though upside down
on the clothesline, your silhouette

reveals the inverse,
a contraption that needs both
to take in and keep,

the house’s clampdown,
the control freak.

"Rorschach" is a psychology test named after Hermann Rorschach, a Swiss psychologist, who showed his subjects standard inkblots to analyze their interpretations. When I read this well-crafted poem for the first time, I did not know of Rorschach, and yet I felt that the clothespin described in this poem is itself being psycho-analyzed. --Majid Naficy

Honorable Mention

‘Appy ‘Our

by Stuart Ryder
The Poets' Graves

A week an’ a day
shreddin’ me soles
ont’ Pennine Way.
Back int’ town,

straight tut’ pub:
order some rolls –
“Good ‘onest grub”.
Pints, get ‘em down!

Well-oiled, me legs lollin’,
Ah lounged, me mind mullin’
o’r background cha’ –
simple but good n tha’…

then our fittie barmaid with flut’rin’
eyes an’ ‘uge tits says Ey-oh Stu!
Stands o’r me wicked like, but’rin’
bread an’ Ah risk a kiss. She does, too.

Pink slabs of ‘am wi’ a garlic mayo.
An’ when she gives me a refill,
a golden sunbeam glances off me ‘ead.