Winning Poems for May 2013

Judged by Linda Sue Grimes

First Place

A Trail of Bodies

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block

I’ve always wondered if she survived.
It was dark. Thirty miles from town.
Maybe a rancher or two lived out there.

My brother and I had brought our rifles
to the mountains, hiking, half-heartedly
shooting at a coyote or antelope, chasing

the sounds of elk sharpening their antlers
against trees, never seeing one. We got
to the paved road not long after sunset.

There was no moon. The old Jeep’s over-
sized tires thumped the pavement, caused
the cab to vibrate. The headlights poked

into the blackness, discovering the now
visible aerial world outside. From force
of impact, nylon insects sounded like two

pound creatures splattering the windshield.
Carroll and I sunk into the well-worn bucket
seats, exhausted, lulled by the drone of tires.

I saw her dark, startled eyes, big ears, black
nose, both of us moving so fast, the thud
on my side instantaneous with her image,

then the sound of the road and nothing else.
We stopped within fifty feet or so, examined
the damage: a broken mirror and the side

glass cracked. Arms dangling at our sides,
we stared into the scrub. A tumbleweed rolled
slowly past. The doe dazed, looking for her

family, hopefully, or dying in the juniper bushes.
Still, to this day, her bones crying in the wind,
lost in time–everyone I’ve ever left behind.


The haunting narrative of “A Trail of Bodies” offers vivid images: “the sounds of elk sharpening their antlers / against trees,” “The old Jeep's over- / sized tires thumped the pavement,” “Arms dangling at our sides,” “A tumbleweed rolled / slowly past.” While only one potential “body” dominates the poem, its possible ghost recalls to the mind of the speaker other bodies that the speaker has over a lifetime “left behind.” The long-term wondering if the deer survived gives pith and mystery to the poem’s urgency. --Linda Sue Grimes

Second Place

For the men

by Judy Kaber
The Waters

who lie stretched upon the table,
hearts stopped, blood pumping
through a machine that kisses

it with oxygen, how much faith
they have to give themselves
up to the knife! Eyes fixed

on some inner world, a deep
chill settles in them, carries
them over the thick plateau

of the dead. One long slice,
bone saw cuts sternum, heart
lifted in someone else’s hand —

who can match this feat? Trust,
not in some oddly named god,
but in a surgeon, some simple

man who goes home, looks
at furniture on Craigslist, checks
his daughter’s algebra, fixes

the value of x. Don’t you wonder
what he sees in his dreams? All
those hearts! Like partners

he has danced with under
streamers of colored lights, each
one matching his step, each

a swathe of delicate cloth
beneath his hand. Always intent
on beat. But it is the men

on the table that I applaud,
led in the dance, eyes closed,
chests still for the moment,

believing, the way a woman
does, that through this magic
somehow this man will save them


In “For the men,” the speaker dramatizes the singular relationship between heart surgeon and patient and concludes that the man lying “stretched upon the table” is the one more deserving of applause for their metaphoric dance. The patient has to entertain belief boarding on “magic” like that of a woman who “somehow” believes that a man will “save them.” --Linda Sue Grimes

Third Place

The Atheist’s Demise

by Fred Longworth
Muse Motel

after both Dylan Thomas and Wallace Stevens

In the last hour of Billy’s dying,
his brow took on the gnarls of fear.
What had seemed so clear as he lay
on the warm grass of contemplation
grew murky on the tundra of a deathbed.

“A priest,” he whispered. “Get me a priest.”

So little time. We called and called.
We were sirens in a ghost town.
No one was available,
even the 7/24 outcall minister.

It was up to us to make believe.

We searched Billy’s house and found
a tarnished silver cross on a lanyard,
a black windbreaker, and a dusty Bible.
Jillian was blood, Michael friend.

I was the unfamiliar.

I donned jacket and cross. Bible in hand,
I read the 23rd Psalm and John 14:1-6.
It was like lying to a child to soothe
his night-fears, and let him
go gentle into good sleep.


“The Atheist’s Demise” gives a nod to Rev. William T. Cummings’ claim, “There are no atheists in the foxholes.” A friend, a relative, and an “unfamiliar” of a dying heretofore-professed atheist perform the semblance of last rites for the lapsed Catholic, sending him into that “good sleep” with the benefit of clergy as the dying man had, seemingly against his own belief system, requested. The living liken their benevolence to “lying to a child to soothe / his night-fears.” --Linda Sue Grimes


  • November 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Hope Springs Like a Panther from a Large Boulder Overhead
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Lullaby
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Love Story
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

  • October 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      The Day of a Girl
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Night Thoughts of a Mottled Songbird
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      The Art of Not Being Descartes
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum