Winning Poems for February 2014

Judged by Robert Lee Brewer

First Place

Box of Stars

by Jim Zola
The Waters

Truth is that box of stars my kids press
on the bedroom ceiling. Shine a light
and they glow a little in the dark.
Then they stop no matter how much light
you give them. They fall one by one.

My father told a story about how he cut off
a man’s ear and stuffed it in his pocket.
When I was seven, the doctors
wanted to break both my legs to fix them.
They bowed just like my father’s did.
Standing side by side we made an M.
Mother told the doctors No. She wore

her anger like a scarf. Father
talked with both hands, grabbing air.
I thought if I could see the shapes,
I might understand his logarithms
of happiness. At eighteen, I ate
a paper star, saw colors in a lover’s face

that weren’t there before or after.
I walked my dog along the broken notes
of railroad tracks, memorized each missing
spike, her favorite spots for squatting.
I walked in shoes of blood. I walked away
from love so many times I ended up walking
back to it. When my father died,
I searched his pockets and found the stars.


This poem sucked me in at the beginning because of it felt familiar, but then it captivated me with its combination of interesting stories and inviting images. From the thought of breaking both legs to fix them to walking away from love to walk back to it, 'Box of Stars' is a great poem about things that sparkle for a finite time before fading and falling away. --Robert Lee Brewer

Second Place

Lexington and 83rd Street

by Bernard Henrie
conjunction

After we kiss good night
I look at my wife and hear
the rustle of a cigarette pack
though she has not smoked
for ten years, the drag of a
matchstick; the sound of her
high heels fading in the hallway
of our first apartment on
Lexington; one leg a quarter
inch shorter than the other;
she stammers slightly when
very tired and she can stay still
for five hours when reading.

She was once briefly unfaithful
and this winter when the crowd
thinned, we skated slowly round
and round at the rink under
a globe of colored glass.


Only as I type my final comments on these poems do I realize a 'leg' connection between this poem and 'Box of Stars.' Anyway, 'Lexington and 83rd Street' is the sort of love poem I can really get behind: It has a dash of grit, some bittersweet, and a gripping final image--'...we skated slowly round / and round at the rink under / a globe of colored glass. --Robert Lee Brewer

Third Place

The Family Bible

by Tina Hoffman
Desert Moon Review

I ended up with it – all the birth
and death records. It is covered
with blood from my Grandma, who was
a diabetic, she’d poke herself,
test herself, and wound up
with the Bible in her bloody hands again.

There are certain passages marked
with colored ribbons, I will never
change them, they were most
important to her. I touch the blood
stains and feel her speaking, even though
I am not sure what they meant to her.

I find them perplexing, pleasing
and peaceful. She still exists
through those bloody fingerprints.
They all thought she was crazy.
I think she was just sad but hopeful
that words would finally make sense.


There's something inherently important about a family Bible. One person's 'crazy' is another person's faith. Two things I really enjoyed about this poem: one, the grandma covering her Bible in her own blood (and then passing it on to her own blood); two, the narrator sharing everything in a very clinical way without tipping her hand as to her own level of faith (or lack of faith). --Robert Lee Brewer

Honorable Mention

Petit Choux

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters

I am, as you are,
fifty-seven parts cabbage,
a minority my rebel self.
The clamour
in the potting shed!
A muscle in the seed
packets. Only a cold snap,

or word of a Great Pumpkin,
and my aspirations are stirred
since i am, as you are
fully three quarters pumpkin.
A fascination with carriages

is in the genes. And staying
up very late, and shoes–
or is that the owlet in me?
Why have I made of myself
so much vegetable, and
neglected the rest of Kind?

It’s true, for four years I wore
platforms that crossed tongues
of mouse-ear suede with mica
and a rare species of ostrich-
ocelot, (with a gummed raft since
I am in everything,
it would appear), yet ignored
an obvious tapir stripe.

What about the ant-eater?
Not to neglect the ant-lion
nor the Hercules horned beetle,
much admired, yet little loved
whose distant, diminutive cousin
my son delivered to me

when he plunged his hands
into Pink’s Lake, and brought out
a prize for the scarcophagus.

Glorious pumpkin-seed of a bronze
beetle — still resting, in a velvet black
ring box, among my greatest
treasures. Mine. That is, perhaps
a 78th part me, considering
the pumpkin, and all the rest.

And you? I’d venture there’s
a two-forked fir between us,
like the one lying out by the curb,
but so much simpler;
a lady-slipper, glassy in sharp rain,
or a brandy snifter
terrarium sundew,

showing the whole of Mer Bleu bog
its tender red, quilled tongue.
Its droplets of herculean dew.
But wrapped in the hands
of a watcher. A seer.
A petit choux.


A clever little poem playing on the double meaning of the French title--a little cabbage, or a term of endearment. Before looking up the meaning of 'Petit Choux,' I was already interested in the vegetable, animal, and insect phrases. Plus, I admit it: I love Peanuts comics and a mention of a 'Great Pumpkin' won't slip by unnoticed. This is a poem that provides even more pleasure when read aloud. --Robert Lee Brewer


  • March 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Cuttlefish
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Wings
      by Bernard Henrie
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      gutterball
      by Brenda Morisse
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • February 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Nebraska, Summer
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Goldback Fern
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Negotiatin’ Wi Demons (For wee Rabbie Burns)
      by John J. Williamson
      PenShells