Winning Poems for May 2014

Judged by R.T. Castleberry

First Place

Sunshine Court

by Judy Kaber
The Waters

An apt name for the place we lived
only weeks before we were evicted,

where I spent time on my knees
scrubbing linoleum that never looked

clean, and you smoked a homemade
hookah, beads of laughter shining

in your beard. Landlady said her son
wanted to move in, but I think it was

because of mountainous clothes, thin
mattress on the floor, bottles of beer,

cheap wine, gin. Clear we were high
in the hereafter. Socked on weed, not

caring a damn thing. Even on packing
day, we dropped acid and that’s how

I wound up clutching the tool box on
the back of the Honda, air blowing

through my brain, not even seeing that
this day, this day, this day was on slow repeat.

Who doesn’t look back with amazed affection at the dangerous lover you never should have kissed, the lunatic drive you shouldn’t have survived, the life you lived at 20--when you look back at it at 40? Sunshine Court nails down the details—squalid, funny, crazed, of life on the blue collar edge, just as fun becomes danger and experimentation an addiction. Depictions of lower middle class life are rare in contemporary poetry and so it’s particularly gratifying to see someone who doesn’t either romanticize the territory or judge the characters. This poem is a vivid portrait of young people enjoying a ragged, adventurous game. --R.T. Castleberry

Second Place

How to Turn a Mountain into a Molehill

by Greta Bolger
The Waters

You can be sure that the conflict
in his mind is framed much differently
than in yours. To him, you’ve dropped
a leaking radiator, still hot, on his head.
To you, you accidentally switched off the light

while he was reading. Clearly a molehill.
You play a violin in your head,
consider packing up for a night or two
in a motel. The chill, the silence is exhausting.
Snow covers the skylights in the bedroom.

Eventually, short sentences return, followed by
an in-depth review of your crime and its necessary
punishment. Sharp-clawed creatures can live
in a dark tunnel for days, pawing at dirt.
Finally, someone remembers the goal.

There are just the two of us here.
We are too old to climb mountains.
Together, we gather up the fine soil
of the molehill and use it to fertilize the garden.

No need to kill the moles after all.

I believe it was Georgia O’Keefe who said, “People change and forget to tell each other.” How To Turn… is a sharp, bedtime look at a brutally difficult marriage (To him, you’ve dropped/a leaking radiator, still hot, on his head./To you, you accidentally switched off the light/while he was reading.) as one on the participants starts to change. The wife considers what move to make to break the tension (You play a violin in your head,/consider packing up for a night or two/in a motel.), endures the recounting of her offense (Eventually, short sentences return/followed by/an in-depth review of (her) crime…) and decides that reconciliation, however enabling for him, is best: Finally, someone remembers the goal./There are just two of us here. However, it’s clear that it’s not “someone” but the wife who has gained the greater wisdom in their marriage. And it is she who will, ever so subtly, shape its direction in the future. --R.T. Castleberry

Third Place

The Snow Angel

by Laurie Byro

My father, who dies on the longest night of the year, returns
a month later, somehow fifty three years old, a wild-eyed charmer,
to tell me that the dead aren’t worrying about the living, that

each snow flake falling, is a wish spoken before it hits the earth.
I am half awake, I rub my eyes. He stamps the porch, begging
for a decent cup of coffee, saying he has no rest for all those wishes,

no sleep for all those mad-rushes to pull us safely
to the curb. I am skeptical. I hand him his coffee: milk, no sugar.
He has that sheepish grin, that wolf-sure twinkle. “Tell me

you aren’t disappointed dad, show me how you know
it’s all ok.” He guffaws his coffee. “I would sleep like the dead.
Instead, I have dervis-toddlers, toothless men. Mostly I have you.

Lighten up, they say, winter’s my busy season.” I blink, his cup
is empty, I was about to make us tea. His shoes wait by his empty bed,
good-will is coming next month. Each day I walk through a forest

with somebody’s name carved on a tree. All winter, during long
feathery nights, wishes swirl round the house, falling
on the neighborhood, on the chimneys while we sleep.

A late night ghostly appearance by a recently deceased parent could be the signal for angst and recriminations, tears and turmoil. In “The Snow Angel” it becomes a wistfully funny visitation by a busy, thirsty dad checking on his kid-- “My father, who dies on the longest night of the year, returns/a month later, somehow fifty three years old…”, to explain why he’s been gone, “he has no rest for all those wishes,/no sleep for all those mad-rushes to pull us safely/to the curb.” They have a cheerful, consoling chat over coffee and the father is gone, back to working wishes—“during long/ feathery nights, wishes swirl round the house, falling/on the neighborhood, on the chimneys while we sleep.” --R.T. Castleberry

  • February 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Not a Poem of Crows
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Resolution to Laugh More
      by F.H. Lee
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      The Nowhere
      by Erwin Fernandez
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • January 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      How the Wind Works
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Sleep Walker
      by Brenda Levy Tate

      Third Place

      The Woman Who Grew up in My House Finds Me on Facebook and Comes to Take a Look Around
      by Antonia Clark
      The Waters