Winning Poems for June 2014

Judged by R.T. Castleberry

First Place

[“Dark Nipple of the Figs”]

by Ryan Laks
The Writer's Block

The things we said, or chose not to; the way it happens
when the mind divides, makes an eye flinch. I know
as a door opens to a darker room you’ll find it is
a warm September evening. Sometimes we kissed
appetizing female forms in our mind. The way it happened
we heard my mother’s voice, we played frightening games
such as neverending. We were lonely and hapless and ordinary.
What is a gust of wind but the act of embrace?
What makes the dream the way it is, subtly aural
and finely positioned like your mouth: I am still
in bed, the drywall is my skin, your crumpled words
are a perturbed skeletal pattern adorned with molars
darned and huddled in, I suppose, for a process
in the time of history we never made specific.
Sometimes we heard the children crying in hunger
in our mind. We occupied ourselves with sufferings. A body
strolling away from you at some distance, once, twice,
or many times into the expanse of the heavens; your thigh,
dripping rosewater, insect wings, shadowed woods,
with a feeling of deep sadness that we had not fulfilled
our senses. Your head and face in particular. My hand
on your waist. When the temperature drops to the bottom
like the dandelion seeds of your breasts
it was pleasant to imagine I could see the queen of all
flowers already half-erased. You are sitting
at my kitchen table, tugging the spilled rice.
How can I tell you now, “my heart curls in sorrow
like autumn leaves.” And yet later, holding your shoulder,
how could I say “your kiss tastes of blood, or wellwater
flecked with rust?”

* * * * *

*Title and two lines from an Untitled poem by imaginary poet, Araki Yasusada

I was drawn to the imaginative density of the language, the surrealism and fresh imagery (Sometimes we kissed/ appetizing female forms in our mind./ The way it happened/we heard my mother's voice, we played frightening games/such as neverending.) And the way the poet held to a narrative line while dropping single lines (We occupied ourselves with sufferings.) that were complementary to the mood but pushed at the limits of narrative, was uniquely strong. Finally, the wit that took the title and two lines from an imaginary poet was clever and winning. --R.T. Castleberry

Second Place


by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum

I’m sitting outside under the screened-in umbrella,
just bought, having a glass or two of Avalon Cab,
just bought, in owl light, burning tikis, listening to
the Giants, the MadBum throwing wild, walking ‘em,

he escapes the inning. Theodore Roethke in my mind,
reading, I have a really nice Northern California buzz
on, I mean, this is the life, the one I dreamed of back
in the days when I dreamed of California, when I

hallucinated California, when I made California real.
I wish you were here, I really do. I’m serious. Come
on over if you’ve a mind to. I invite you all. Big party.
Except the mosquitoes. I tell you, the ones tonight

are clinging to the netting, they’re shouting at me,
Damn you, you are too delicious to be in there, let
us in! They’re hanging there famished. And I laugh.
I laugh, laugh, laugh. Oh man, I am so delicious.

In my mind, humor in poetry is incredibly hard to pull off. It tends toward either the punchline of an immediate historical moment or a wit that doesn’t wear well in later years. However, this piece has a loose charm that rises above those usual limitations. It’s rooted in specificity (Avalon Cab, the Giants, the MadBum) and has a colloquial language (I have a really nice Northern California buzz on,) that welcomes the reader into the experience. --R.T. Castleberry

Third Place

Riding Out the Night

by Sergio Ortiz
Wild Poetry Forum

It’s never good enough
for her. She analyzes my images,
line breaks, my intent. I call her,
Mrs. God; a head bobbing above
ash-colored waves. She’s always
baking pies to leave alone
on some windowsill. When she fucks me
she still doesn’t speak, for speech
is creation. But I rock and roll inside
her like a dream. Sometimes I forget,
let slide my grasp and the colors
that cover me. That’s when she
starts to smoke her pipe, and read
and read, and read out loud
to the children that come around
to steal the pies. Terrible things
happen. Angels shed their feathers,
and prophets go nuts. I am always safe.
I clutch a spar, a barrel, an oar,
and ride out the night with it.

Someone once referred to “writing about writing” as poetic incest. And that version of verse does too often veer toward navel-gazing mediocrity. However this poem is saved from that with its sarcastic surrealism (I call her,/Mrs. God; a head bobbing above /ash-colored waves.) and the equally sardonic sexuality of “When she fucks me/she still doesn’t speak, for speech/is creation.” It’s a funny, mordant piece reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s best mid-Sixties work. --R.T. Castleberry

Honorable Mention

Social Structure

by Helm Filipowitsch

In social sculpture, the artist’s
materials include not just canvas
or marble, but also the space
in which the work appears
and the audience that views it.*

Consider a seagull’s erratic arc
carved from the air. A meter
above beach, stone and delicate
marsh marigold bursting with June.
Consider our gaze south across
Dorcus Bay and clouds which
promise rain. Consider that we
are alone, that a cool breeze
itches forever bent trees and
dark energy moves through us.
Unpainted on this canvas, as blind
and unfeeling as that sliver of
moon which rode the stars
last night. Consider I cannot
feel your touch, nor you mine,
yet our thoughts and emotions
entwine, move with and through
each other, changing nothing.
Consider a seagull always in one
place, though constantly
on the move, unaffected by
the sculpture its arc creates.

*Jordan Himelfarb, in “Annals of Encryption: Solving
the Weldon Library letter code mystery at Western
proves a welcome lesson in the strange bonds of
humanity, The Toronto Star”, April 5, 2014.

I enjoyed the driving rhythm and repetition of “Consider…” and the reasonably fresh use of flight and art as imagery. --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