Winning Poems for March 2014

Judged by Robert Lee Brewer

First Place

Postcards to Samsara

by Lois P. Jones
PenShells

1.

he kept painting the planets
formed the moon from a ball
of wax and hung it without a wick
positioned a star with enough distance
into the past it reached the future

2.

this glow which died light years ago
finds him the way a mirror reflects
from a wreck
at the bottom of an ocean
the way death draws a map
he must follow

3.

he kneels on the red woven mat
to balance perspective
while one hand tips
a brush to canvas
the dish of dark water
keeps a galaxy within time
his journal in search of a voice
a bonsai tree whose shadow
is an inkwell

4.

Perhaps Eve loved Adam
so much she gave away
all her memories
resigned herself to samsara
as if ignorance were a flood
a way to drown the animal
there are no flaming swords
guarding the gate
there’s only me
trying to uncover our Eden
so much of us left
like lodestone in the earth
after all
I asked to be hungry
you consented to be tasted


I love the idea of a poem comprised of postcards, and there's enough substance in the poem that I don't need to know anything about "samsara" to enjoy the poem. Each section is a poem worth reading, and the final two lines are, for me anyway, what poetry is all about--that primal connection between writer and audience. I've read this poem so many times already and will continue to do so. --Robert Lee Brewer

Second Place

tower

by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum

I am pared down to river and light,
a remembrance of pine, coin pearls scattered
like fallen moons, the scent of almonds.
Here is the inevitable open hand,

rose petal stained, white as snow
shrugged from the shoulders of slighter gods.
Joy is a stone bruise. I feel it
when I move. Even the needled path

is a sonnet, every metered step,
a strophe. Breath is all that matters now.
Who thinks of me when all is quiet?
Not even I. Not even I.


So much I love about this poem: the repetitive final line, making the abstract concrete ("joy is a stone bruise"), the meditative tone of the whole piece--that still feels very immediate, which is the trick, right? I think the opening line explains why this poem is so strong: "I am pared down to river and light..." But the poem is wrong in one respect; I will think of it when all is quiet. --Robert Lee Brewer

Third Place

Dog in Winter

by Hugh Anderson
Desert Moon Review

The cold has trapped her too long
sprawled on the hearth rug, twitching
and yipping in squirrel filled dreaming.
Though I am loath to abandon my book
and easy chair, I uncloset her leash
and dance her excitement out the door.

Something about frozen ground
and print-pocked snow must capture scent,
for though she strains for the familiar destination,
each post, each tree, each clump of icy grass
demands she sniff its story to the end.

Finally: the hundred stairs, the beach.
The sky is glass, cold sun a distant beam
shot through it. Freed from her leash,
she skates across the springs that slid
across the sand and froze below
the ice-fanged bluffs. She starts at seaweed
tumbled from a windy tide, half-crisp,
its salt still liquid, water turned ice.

Where the salt is thicker and the tide
just ebbed, the sand is soft and ridged
with echoes of the recent waves.
Here the dog stops sniffing and runs,
full of the energy of space, of earth that gives
when her paws push down, sprays generously
when she leans into a high speed turn. Her tail
is a flag of joy, her breath bursts out in clouds.

She stops and faces the wind, nostrils flaring.
The sky is crystal, the earth rock.
Here in this half land of recent sea,
she is ancient and unleashed.


On one level, this is a simple "walking the dog" poem, right? The narrator doesn't even want to get up and "abandon my book" at the beginning. However, what grabs me is the transformation that happens over the course of this poem as it 1) transforms from a poem about the narrator to a poem about the dog and 2) the dog transforms from a creature dependent on the narrator to a creature "ancient and unleashed." --Robert Lee Brewer

Honorable Mention

Not a Natural Disaster

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block

Lounging in a racing Lancer
I see distant trees darken with night,
a bracket of serial bulbs – coming

closer – the outline
of a long hooked nose; suddenly
lights magnified on the mountain
blazing a ‘v’ in the running hand,

and I respond, “How breathtakingly beautiful.”
My husband retorts, “No, how sad,
no helicopter there to douse those flames!
You’re witnessing a forest fire,
how towering trunks collapse
into carcasses of charcoal.

Some rapacious trader set
the first spark.” “Rascal,”
the driver interjects:

“Trees three hundred years
in a flash like undone inner skirts.”


I enjoyed this poem about something beautiful to the narrator that is ultimately proved to be tragic. Three voices are heard, each provides a slightly different perspective, and the poem accomplishes it all in only 18 lines. Impressive--and beautiful--to be sure. --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