Winning Poems for March 2010

Judged by Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar

First Place

Eden in Winter

by Russel Smith
The Write Idea

In a downtown park I find
a marble Eve with broken hands and feet
lying awake by a sleeping man,
where he had carried her.

Unconscious, still he keeps her
among the frost-bit weeds,
a crippled captive
to oversee his wretchedness.

New life sings in the branches,
rattles the clinging leaves,
chases the hard snow crunching
sweet as halvah, beneath my feet.

Each lengthening day the sun
climbs higher over us.
I circle here; I listen
to her muted voice.

She tells me we are naked,
lacking even skins of animals,
and having eaten of the tree of life,
we could live forever.


We are enamored of the city scene drawn here, the homeless man and his marble Eve, the "frost-bit weeds". The idea that these difficult surroundings can be somehow Edenesque. A mysterious poem that harkens back to the garden where all is naked and broken. --Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar

Second Place

nettles riff nettles the big tree

by Steve Parker
criticalpoet.org

there at the confluence of radiators the boy sings

I knew you when you were small
you remember back in the old days
a father from outside swinging
a man with a glider who said now then

now then what? someone they said did homosex stuff
in a cinema after chopping nettles all day
this was a betrayal of his wife/mother
all day this was a betrayal

the boy was in bed with biscuits
a torch
the cold the deep cold

by the age of eight I was inured to cold
I can take cold like I can take rejection
warmth I see as too much frivolous politics

ancestral shame I can’t help your Grandfather
who in a laudanum frenzy
maybe it is not right to speak of the favourite goat
whose spirit appeared over and over
in the guise of a maiden
always at dusk clutching a glass
of chartreuse asking in chitin

to be served in the hemispherical bread oven
where the bones were found behind the wall broken

later his girlfriends found these discoveries challenging
uh uh uh uh uh she would say from her book
he held so avid at night beneath the blankets
in the torchlight uh uh uh uh uh he
would say back in English Naval umaphore

tomorrow both of them scything nettles in the old garden
at each other scarcely looking


A fractured narrative wherein the reader is moved through a series of arresting images, back towards an “ancestral shame”. The poem skips its frenetic way through politics and sex and memory, using a range of voices, all of them tied together through the starkly powerful scything of nettles. --Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar

Third Place

Everything will be permitted, nothing will be desired

by Laura Ring
Wild Poetry Forum

We abandoned our bodies not long
after the millennium. Even the memory
was hateful at first — wet, crabwise things,

animalcules in a giant jizz wad rushing to fertilize
the Great Mother. Absurd lips, genitals,
rounded skulls like the dumb heads of sperm.

Reproduction a horror of chance, like reaching
blind into a grab bag for gametes.
We had cures for everything: cancer,

heart disease. We lived too long, witnessed
the recalculation of risk. Watched the ordinary —
cotton, moonlight — turn deadly. There were
so many ways to die.
In time

our absent bodies grew benign,
the way vanished things become lovable.
Laudanum. Castor oil. We shake

our heads at the big-head bipeds
that wander our history like hi-wheels
and wagons; tote their leaks
and swellings in the hapless past.

A mere century makes of our bodies
a Golden Age. We doubt the measure
of our bloodless geometry, press
the old timers for stories of flesh:

They say our fingers made trails in the water;
and the pizza cheese burned our mouths. They say
sometimes our bare legs would stick to the back seats of cars.


This poem’s finely drawn map of the "bloodless" future makes us especially appreciate the last three lines that bring us back to the present, back into our living bodies: fingers, mouths, legs. --Dorianne Laux & Joseph Millar

Honorable Mention

Lot

by Richard Moorhead
Wild Poetry Forum

I. Bible Story

Someone’s wife, no – husband,
dreaming of a soup
to dip the spouse in.
The years taste like her
or cream of artichoke
with a little lick of sin.

II. Readied for Sale

How casually you sell my mistakes
to recipients of saleable complaints, tie
an off-white luggage tag to my big toe,
ready me for auction. I despise that

but I love the thickness of the paper
and the tag’s hole protector –
a sticker like a polo mint.
I love its old fashionedness.

III. That’s your lot

It’s not what you have,
but the end of what you have.
It is not who you are, but the end
of who you are. I am reluctant

to accept it, like the moment
when you move house.
Close the last door
on an emptied room,

register disgust and marvel
at the dust surrounding
where the frames of pictures
lingered with indifference.

You should move, but then
you’d start to build your lot again.



Honorable Mention

The First Cut

by Lana Wiltshire Campbell
Blueline Poetry

the tree surgeon came today at noon

made quesadillas on the sidewalk
chanted accolades to the spore geist

the old ash kept silent
waiting for the first incision
the plum cried tiny flowers



Honorable Mention

Comfort

by Cynthia Neely
The Waters

The sheets were pristine,
so clean. Wait, go back
The air so clean yes the air
like a baby’s breaching breath no,

wait. Back further.

Before my pen described a needle.

Still, before a needle stilled
your life. And Mother needed
not to cradle me or beg me

to remember floating on the bay.
Before the needle sought its target,
through belly swell, in amniotic sea.

Stop, wait,

further.

Before your father shaved my head.
Before the wigs I didn’t like.
Before I shopped for scarves instead.

No No No. Before
the drip drip drip,

the cysplat poisoned veins
discreetly positioned pans
the vague white-coated comfort:
You can always have another…

Before the errant cell
Before I would tell them
I chose
me
over you.

Yes, further, further

Before, before, when air was clean,
when I was clean, and wings were filled,
and you still floated on your own private bay.

Before I balanced on reflection’s edge,
and lay quiet on such pristine sheets
with stirruped feet.

Before I harbored sparrows in my breast
and could not speak
for fear of losing those that fluttered darkly
to escape.



Honorable Mention

Song for the Ghost of Gabriel Gomez

by Emily Brink
The Writers Block

*about a classmate who died young

Your family buried you in your uniform,
white and navy. I heard you grew wings
in the grave and escaped in a lowrider.

You are closer to God than I. So tell me
does he whisper in your ear, exactly where
St. Lucy left her famous eyes?

You are descending into the crater
of a volcano to resurrect Aztec virgins,
you are watching over the young mothers
crossing the Senora into the United States.

When you died an alcoholic priest wrote your
elegy with trembling hands—
Your brother, pockets full of heroin needles,
was ashamed it wasn’t him who died.

And here I am, in the pitch of St. Raymond’s,
surprised by tears. It has been so long
since I knelt for anything.




  • 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
      The Waters

  • 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