Winning Poems for January 2014

Judged by Robert Lee Brewer

First Place

The Bell

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters

The thing about the cat’s a bell.
For whom it tolls, the bell will tell.

It creeps along a garden’s edge;
a screen of stripey willow sedge.

The little lemon lozenge nestling.
The petals through the leaflets, rustling.

The cat, with velvet sleeves and pockets.
With milky whiskers, eyes like rockets.

She doesn’t mean to spoil the nest.
He never thought to be a pest.

He brings a squirrel home for dinner.
She puzzles at the bell, the inner

yowl that escapes her clutches.
The bunnies shiver in their hutches.


I admit it: I'm not a cat person, but I didn't hold it against this poem. It's hard to pull off an aa/bb/cc/etc. rhyme scheme--in couplets, no less--but this poem does. A few reasons I love it: first, it's a sonic tour de force; second, the sing-song nature of the poem contrasts well with the dark subject matter. I'm a sucker for lines like, 'The little lemon lozenge nestling.' --Robert Lee Brewer

Second Place

Badlands

by Gail Moran Wawrzyniack
The Write Idea

Ribbons of heat
lift a red-tailed hawk
to circle the crevasse.

Eleven trees,
branches bare, stand
gnarled and wind-worn.

Set the sun. Silhouette,
jagged and strange.
It’s too late. Seared.


This poem takes a completely different tactic. While it still plays with sound in a subtle way, 'Badlands' succeeds in capturing a place on a grand scale through bringing together concise snapshots. The poem weaves together 3 independent images and throws in a moment of epiphany that is sure to spark discussion in the final line: 'It's too late.' --Robert Lee Brewer

Third Place

About George and his Feeding a Street Rat

by Alex Nodopaka
PenShells

When my dear friend and I visited Alcatraz Island
we were entranced by paying a call to the cell where
we thought the Birdman of the Rock resided.

Back home we joked about that day
knowing inmates befriended mice, cockroaches,
flies and angels. That was many years ago.

George died before the television monitor,
his Greek fisherman hat askew
keeping his bald pate unnecessarily warm.

Captivated, his glazed eyes were still focused
on the snowy static of the plasma screen.
The tape still, inside the player,

a classic black and white movie,
Birdman of Alcatraz. I wonder if the wild rat
he fed nightly in his kitchen

misses the cheese of him as much as I still do.


One thing that stuck with me the first time I read this poem is the subject matter: Alcatraz, the Birdman, and his rat. An interesting (and focused) subject is always appealing, but this poem does a few more things I like. First, it offers up a lot of details about both the Birdman and the narrator. Second, the cheesy line at the end of the poem works because it risks failure. --Robert Lee Brewer

Honorable Mention

Madonna of the Snows

by Brenda Levy Tate
PenShells

The storm wraps her in winter,
swaddles her newborn with a cloak
fallen from air. “The Lord will provide.”
She bows against sea squalls.
In her salt garden at a field’s edge,
only strangers pass. They step away
from this concrete woman, leaning
beside a pine to protect her child.

The path is banked and billowed,
a shovel plunged into its folds.
Thorn hedges wear ice petals,
blooming in a land where only
the hellebore opens now: Christmas
Rose, sticky with musk. Blood
on leaves at her feet.

She gazes through the distance,
Mother of All Sorrows; starflakes
drift above her head. A spear of light
descends from the one who cast her,
alone with a half-god and eyes
that long to close.

She is his artifact, and ours as well,
fixed on an iron stake impaling the earth.
She has been created to stand mute
and accept that chaos will blast
every flower she has ever known.

Not even her sleeping babe can stir,
nor lose his robe to the briars.


This poem impresses me more with each reading. I love the final five lines, and I admire poets who attempt communicating a 'message' in their poems. Plus, it's unusual to see the term 'starflakes' in a poem--so kudos for that. --Robert Lee Brewer


  • 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