Winning Poems for March 2013

Judged by Deborah Bogen

First Place


by Dale Patterson

From boiler maelstrom, rivets
and bucking bar, he walks
onto Fourth Avenue. Cinders
crackle each step, ten paces
per-puff on a Chesterfield.

His home is an hour away,
down through the valley,
past shop-after-shop, butted
brown boxes, corrugated:
their seams drawn in
fiery red-orange, exhale
a noxious gray smoke,
pushing gondolas, tankers,
muscled locomotives, all to be
and rebuilt again.

Apart from the rail yard,
a copper wheel spins, buffs
yellow highlight on Brush Mountain’s
ridge, marks tallies in frost
on tarpaper houses.

His pockets share warmth
with his clenching white-knuckles.

The day-shift is fresh-
out-of-bed, mugs
down its beans,
then hammers the sidewalk.
He nods as they pass, takes
one last precious hit from a spent
cigarette, then strides
to his door.

His wife sparks a match
on a kerosene burner, sizzles a pan
of tough meat and bone.

What Hopper brings to canvas this poet brings to the page, a moment both precise and stylized that calmly confronts a human paradox: that even our solitary natures connect us. The language is as dense and durable as the self-contained subject who seems to be another “muscled locomotive…” as he saunters past “shop-after-shop, butted brown boxes” on his way home to the “tough meat and bone” that sizzles in a pan. --Deborah Bogen

Second Place

Hansel Ties the Knot

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

For Teresa White

It never happened the way you imagined, celebrity was worth
the loss of stuffed dogs. Sis and I made big news after our

abduction, front page of People Magazine, that Oprah interview.
Gretel was never entirely free of it, her maid-of-honor dress

sized Zero, not an easy accomplishment for a girl with Teutonic
eyes and tightly woven pig-tails. Still the old witch taught us

the merits of binge and purge. For a time, I dated only women
with cauldrons and warty noses, a chin-hair or a mole would start

an itch deep in my hosen. Finally though, I fell in love, comforted
by the stability of a baker’s daughter. Her perfume is yeasty,

like the loaves her father bakes; pumpernickel, whenever
we wanted. Auch, you should witness the skills she has

with fondant. Our windows might melt with the first blast
of a summer sun, but if living on love runs out, there is always

the rush of sweet sugar. Did we turn out alright? Ja, there is no
residual terror. Gretchen is expecting; already, there is a cake

in the ovens. I cannot wait to diaper and spank the rump-roast
hiney of our first-born child. Instead of bread crumbs,

my Beloved tosses rose petals before us and they curl
into sunbursts that lead the way out of a dark forest night.

With an opening that mixes modern lingo and age-old myth this poem seems at first like an exercise in being both light-hearted and witty. But there’s a question we all want to ask the victims of bad experiences and Hansel asks it: “Did we turn out alright? Ja, there is no residual terror.” We want to believe him but he speaks again: “…already, there is a cake/ in the ovens. I cannot wait to diaper and spank the rump-roast/ hiney of our first-born...” My blood ran cold. --Deborah Bogen

Third Place

Tool Shed

by Arlin Buyert
Wild Poetry Forum

The smallest building
on his eighty-acre farm
was an unknown cave:

one window dead center
over the well-oiled workbench
with wrenches, hammers and post-hole diggers
hanging in disarray from rusty nails.

Grandpa’s twenty pound sledge
leans into the corner
next to his wood chair
where, when rain pelted the tin roof,

he would sit,
watch me clamp his handsaw into the vise,
then slowly stroke its teeth with a file
while he rolled a cigarette,
waiting for the sun.

This poet understands that restraint and economy can find the compressed power of a small moment. A simple terse description (almost a list poem itself) supports the palpable tension between the speaker and the grandfather as one attempts to get the chore done right while the other sits “rolling a cigarette,/ waiting for the sun.” --Deborah Bogen

Honorable Mention

And Maybe Sleep

by Fred Longworth

There is never enough of it,
the pattering of lambent sunshine
on the balcony jutted over a canyon
of chaparral and Hottentot fig,
with the urgencies that dog you day by day
relaxing at your side on tiny deck chairs,
their little feet propped on miniature
ottomans. Everything is still.
The crows that rule the trees
are still. The wind chimes dangling
from the eave are still.
The cars on the roadway across the canyon
have lost their voices. And if you were
a clock face, you would lower
your arms from three o’clock or four
and fold them gently in your lap.

I was entranced with the ending; “And if you were/ a clock face, you would lower/ your arms from three o’clock or four/ and fold them gently in your lap.” Any poet would give a lot to have written those lines. --Deborah Bogen