Winning Poems for April 2014

Judged by R.T. Castleberry

First Place

in an open field

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block

not knowing that soil
still clings to them
that their bones
yearn to be found
before they turn to dust

that the wind sings
through them
the endless song
of their former lives

that worms weave
a space for souls
the dead are convinced
will come to them
on a grey winter day

as sparrows foraging
in snowless patches
of last year’s stubble


Poe once wrote that the proper subjects for poetry were beauty, love, tragedy and death. For mortals, death is a constant concern; for poets, a primal conceit. Whether weeping over the lost or re-imagining the after-life as everlasting—vampire, zombie, avenging angel, we as humans return to death.

"in an open field" drew me back repeatedly, each reading raising it higher in estimation. A tightly written, spare lyric, it speaks beautifully and eloquently to the belief that death does not end consciousness, that there is “a space for souls/the dead are convinced/will come to them/on a grey winter day…” --R.T. Castleberry


Second Place

Archimedes Palimpsest

by E. Russell Smith
The Write Idea

The original is lost,
but thirteen centuries after
Archimedes wrote in Syracuse
the mysteries of his mathematics
someone in Byzantium copied them
on parchment, on a vellum scrap
consigned to waste but rescued,

scraped and bound to make
a prayer book in Jerusalem,
petitions set right-angled to
the Greek geometry, obscuring it –
floating intimations of infinity,
the unlikely calculus of zero,
the value (not the life) of Pi,

the doubtful purity of standards
(gold or otherwise) and
leverage, political or not –
a puzzling stomach ache
from images not seen today
by Archimedes’ lights, but
ultraviolet, infrared, and x.


Americans are obsessed with refreshing and reviving the past. We dine out on new rumors about old stars, revive old tv shows for new movies, recycle old styles of fashion and architecture. We market our dead, whether Monroe or Lincoln, Custer or Kurt Cobain.

"Archimedes Palimpsest," the tale of how a scrap filled with mathematical equations was “consigned to waste but rescued” to be turned into a prayer book, is a unique and complex story of reclamation told in clear and witty terms. --R.T. Castleberry


Third Place

The Tuning Fork’s Addiction

by Lois P. Jones
PenShells

for Rainer Maria Rilke

I am the node – the point of no vibration
at the base of you. Strike me against

your surface and I will echo
like a wave rushing toward you

until I know the eroded curves,
your loose pebbles separated from stone.

Strike, until I see past this human carnival
and its masquerade – the Dionysian mask

with its black moon eyes. See beyond your birth
in fire and wine to the faceless flower,

the slender calyx that holds corolla in lavender.
Your scent dissolves my name;

nameless I change to the sage I crush
on my tongue and remember bitterness.

I know the landscape of your country,
forests where light bends through the leaves

to emptiness – what’s there? a drizzle
of your honeyed tongue. I can still feel

the strike of the owl’s wing against your cheek
as you lay in your crater watching the moon

rise over the Sphinx. Your pulse the strike never heard,
but finds my longing place and holds it there.


When critics speak about the music and color of a piece, what they’re commenting on is the elegant matching of word choice and tone to subject matter. Paramount in poetry, it’s most important in a shorter work. The Tuning Fork’s Addiction has a driving rhythm filled with wonderful imagery ("See beyond your birth/in fire and wine to the faceless flower…"). --R.T. Castleberry

Honorable Mention

Anger

by Sergio Ortiz
Wild Poetry Forum

worried
your name is missing—
it circles
in the shadow-world,
a wind-blown ghost

a salamander
crawls up my skin–
my tongue
tangles with aphasia,
ready to confront

his mouth
full of fumes –
I blaze up
like the ruff
of an offended bird

shadows
prisoners left
on the wall —
        scattered
in a mass grave


a fine piece very similar in style to “in an open field.” --R.T. Castleberry

Honorable Mention

Snow Bees

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

Before you died, you became the snow I walked through,
sentinel trees shooing moths and snow bees, just like

the stories I had been raised on, just like the string of pearls
I counted like ivory roses. I wished for the end of winter,

even before that first day. Wrens kept hurling themselves
at the windows, bursting into splinters of wing. If this

were an omen, I said it was because the snow queen wanted
pheasant, tricking the birds with reflected clouds. I apologized

to the air, the clothing of the feathers never fades, a speck
in the eye as the moon peels back its light. How many

broken song birds would satisfy the snow queen? How
many walks through the dripping forest before you became

that crusty wind, the crystals that came down in November,
blinding us all from escaping through the canopy of wings?


another strong poem about that particular poetic conceit—death. --R.T. Castleberry


  • 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