Winning Poems for November 2011

Judged by Nathalie Handal

First Place

Eating Crow

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

After Reading Ted Hughes

A Devon autumn chases ghosts down alleys, Shura
should have been our lost baby, the one flowering

from the toilet the day you crumpled your face, pasty-
white like the old hive, resurrected with blue-heart eyes.

I was Prospero. I was Caliban. I was the filthy-nailed
stand in for Daddy. Already, my tongue bled lies, my dick—

thick with honey, my vows of wild-escape. It was I who
bought you your Taroc pack. I, who taught you the plays

of Shakespeare, you only knew three before we met. That holy
number, that trinity of failed marriage—three meant

a witch has entered the sky. You invited her in, you dreamt
her real and she appeared, asleep like a princess-hag

in a pike’s drunken eye. The wild earth wanted you back,
with all its cunning fox-holes, its voices lulling you to sleep

under the deep sighs of the house. A weasel-gypsy caught
you with her icicle fingers, calling you out of our sweet honey

moon sleep. She declared you dead: borrowed entirely by me,
not quite blue. Sycorax lured you to her brothy-bridal

cauldron. Still you finished each poem, each postcard.
You filled each terracotta pot with earth and all your favorite

flowers. But it is Shura who makes her silent howl
while the moon fills, plump with its leaking mother’s milk.

It is Shura who grasps her rag-button dolls, clutching
them to her chest like a crone-woman suckling a dead baby.


Hypnotic. Yet it is death that lingers here. Death roams life. And life the corridors of a small hell. And pain is a poem you have to finish. But this poem will never finish – its breaths endless in our minds. --Nathalie Handal

Second Place

Hurricane Weather

by Brenda Levy Tate
PenShells

The first time my father caught me
a trout, blood-mucus slick
where its mouth was hooktorn,
he laid it scarred and scared
across my palm. I saw myself fade
out of its eyes.

Fathers disappear after awhile.
I watch mist creep ashore; listen
to the sedges weep. On this day,
a child can pull fish from brooks of air.
Hang them on an evergreen to unspeckle
and dry among needle-drops.

The rain wears warm gloves.
Ribs rise to a darker current beneath.
Breath swirls around them – river
through reeds.

Clouds run down skin, dress me
with this latest storm. It has another name
but I call it Thomas – after my father.
Thomas, for all my doubting.

I was the last thing seen by an innocent –
the reply to a question dying in my hand.
But I am no one’s answer now.


“Fathers disappear after awhile,” is a line full of wound. It stands alone yet envelops the poem. Keeps it from falling like the reply dying in the hand and the question persisting. This poem insists on taking us to where the rain wears gloves, where clouds run down skin and an answer is no longer an answer. --Nathalie Handal

Third Place

Melody

by Allen Weber
FreeWrights Peer Review

Providence held her to orchard paths, dropped a match
in that house where nobody lived. Having stayed five years
a ghost, only a Unitarian choir would suffer her leaving.

Imagining gravel streams, asphalt rivers, she waded
into the depot for any passage her legacy might afford.
Across the platform, a gust cartwheeled my lyrics, across

the yellow line, past a mandolin case—pretty at her feet.
No coquette, she looked away to smooth her fluttering
dress—robin-egg blue—just so, by God, we never met.


Here, the melody comes from a deep voice. And all we can do is listen, and allow the lines to take us to where melodies usually don’t. --Nathalie Handal


  • 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