Winning Poems for January 2010

Judged by Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar

First Place

Eureka Springs

by Jude Goodwin
The Waters

Now that’s a big Jesus
and it’s not how I know him at all.
Imagine living under someone’s father
image like that, looks like
he’s blocking the door. “I do this
for you, my son.” Look mister,
I’m hankering for East. I’ve done
the Berlin Wall slab, the Liberty
replica, time’s come for passing
the great white milk carton. The real
Jesus never grew old and he was skinny.
I held him once, in college. I could feel
his ribs. His heart hammered
like a ruby-throated hummingbird,
I felt the wind from his wings
for years. This big theme park
messiah, unrevolving and without
an elevator, this isn’t Jesus.
It’s his body guard. It’s the man
blocking the tunnel down
to the bomb shelters. It’s the guy
who won’t let you into the ER
to watch your mother die. It’s the cop
who holds you back on the grass
as your friends and ex-wife move
all your belongings out of the house
and into a cube van, it’s the shape
you make on the cellar floor
where you wait for the end.
The real Jesus played guitar,
bending his body around the music
like a gourd. His skin was brown
and smelled of cinnamon.

Eureka Springs is a glorious re-envisioning of the famous 2 million pound mortar and steel statue of Jesus of the Ozarks. We're enamored of the way this poem takes the familiar image of Jesus, welcoming arms outstretched, and transforms the gesture to reveal our more earthly and unholy fathers, though in the end, returns the messiah to a humble and ultimately human figure. --Joseph Millar & Dorianne Laux

Second Place


by Judy Swann
The Waters

It is a time that says enough, hush.
If we’re lucky, no car will groan past into the glove of our silence.
Though there are schools and businesses, we will not leave home.
Though there is electricity stored in batteries and a power grid and running water, we lay modestly under our blankets.
Though there are apples and kolatchen and bacon, though there is cabbage, we are not hungry.

Life holds still, like a painting or a mountain.

"Snow" is a small, quiet poem that becomes larger and larger as it progresses, climbing gracefully upwards into its final powerful image. We're especially taken with the syntax and simplicity of this piece. --Joseph Millar & Dorianne Laux

Third Place

Tiger, Tiger

by Mitchell Geller
Desert Moon Review

(With profound apologies to William Blake)

Tiger, Tiger, driving right
into the tree that fateful night;
how indignant was thy spouse
to send thee fleeing from thy house?

Charming children, winsome wife,
fortune to enrich thy life.
Can a trull, however sultry
force thee into thine adult’ry?

In what distant bleak terrain
hid what passes for thy brain?
Did the itch within thy loins
make thee pay for love with coins?

Hero of that long walk, spoiled,
how didst thou become embroiled
with these sluttish, venal sirens,
so removed from tees and irons?

Art thou sinful? Art thou daft?
Are the balls and wood and shaft
that fill thy mind and heart and eyes
not the ones that earn a prize?

Tiger! Tiger! See thy pastor,
or a shrink, thy lust to master.
In thy quest for venery
did any bimbo NOT make thee?

Who can resist this occasional poem about the great golf pro lately in the news for his flagrant peccadillos? A clever, deft, mini tour de force-- the informal language playing against rigors of form-- this is a quirky poem of questions that continues to surprise and delight. --Joseph Millar & Dorianne Laux

Honorable Mention


by Michael Harty
Wild Poetry Forum

She lay dead-white and perfect
blanketed in paint and lilies. Incense died
around our ankles. The hair, stiff
with spray, too quiet to be her own.
Never mind the little priest, what could he know
of her falls and rises, of dime dances
and lucky breaks, mink-wrapped evenings
in Columbus Circle, New Year’s canapes
on the Queen Mary. The shining lies
of tuxedoed men, the dead faithlessness
of diamonds. High life in the Loop, low life
a block from Venice Beach. How to put
twelve years of dents in the same Cadillac.
How one enunciates while holding
one’s fourth manhattan of the afternoon.

Yes, it was fate or serendipity
when the late-arriving nephew staggered
into the wreath from the Library Guild,
knocking it into the coffin,
which tipped the wig over her eyes
and smeared her lipstick for the last time.
Now that was more like it. Finally
we could say goodbye.

Honorable Mention


by Bren Lyons

I sit awfully upright, silent
in my Japanese room: tatami mats,
the walls squared away
the hanging scroll.
Don’t forget the garbage,
the wife trills out and the door
clicks shut: she is away to work.
I pull out the shining sword
and lay it upon my lap,
sharp as a bastard,
you could shave with this fucker.
Breathe in, breathe out,
become Japanese.
I stare at the scroll,
trying to make out the Kanji,
this looks like “world” and “within”
and then there’s a load of squiggly pigeonshit
and then the sirens kick in,
the ambulances, dragging heartsore
victims to clapped-out hospitals.
I stare some more at the scroll.
Stare long enough and you might learn something.
I like this summer kimono,
it allows you to scratch your balls
comfortably, no need for zips or retainers
and the squirrels, they run about
in the trees, beyond the window,
they run about in the piece of the wood
where we had to bury poor fuckin Paul.
They haven’t found him yet; chances are
they never will. The good thing about this room
is that it has no mirrors. I mean to say,
you don’t need to look at yourself. Ever.

Honorable Mention

Post Apocalypse in Polo Park

by Don Schaeffer
Pen Shells

The end of the world
comes with a grumble
and small fires
licking at the trees;

but the people die
at the hands of one another.
The cold comes from
failure of mercy,
not the winter.

That’s why the bus trip home
is magnified. Those icey
lights which subtract the color
and the deep Winter panic
of the Winnipeg cold.

I’m a deeply lonely man
so I just understand.
I want the voice
of a friend in the night.

  • September 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      by Elizabeth Koopman
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Church of the Wheelchair Ladies
      by Mary MacGowan
      The Waters

      Third Place

      The Green Mirror
      by Runatyr
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • August 2020 Winners

    • First Place (tie)

      Sixth Street Psychic Walk-ins Welcome
      by Mike LaForge
      The Waters

      First Place (tie)

      Houses Houses Houses
      by Mary MacGowan
      The Waters

      Second Place (tie)

      by Doug Pugh
      The Write Idea

      Second Place (tie)

      Who knew you would become a comet
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block