Winning Poems for July 2014

Judged by Suzanne Lummis

First Place

Letter to a Friend Long Dead

by Marty Bradley
Wild Poetry Forum

I ride the Walt Whitman into Camden,
guided by refineries’ methane flares,
brake lights bombarding my eyes, car horns unholy.
Jesus Christ would use his turn signal
every fucking time, even when no one’s watching.
It’s hard for me to imagine an event
without witness.

I would be without you either way, watching or not,
alone to possess this aging suit of skin and hair
and all the rest-black t-shirt pulled tight, diamond glinting.
I don’t know if I should venture out for weed
tonight, as thoughts of your pin-cushion belly
thicken my blood to a trickle, and the monotonous
calculation of half-life takes hold.

Seated in the lawn of the Susquehanna Bank Center,
I flirt with the drunken mother of quadruplets
granted an evening reprieve from her horde of suckling lips,
music provided by a skinny boy called Jason Mraz.
I don’t know how your girls are doing, George–
they have grown up and forgotten all but the myth of you,
but I remember kissing your papery lips goodbye.


I enjoy and admire the natural, conversational voice that manages to retain the stuff of poetry -- richness of detail, elements of surprise -- without flattening into prose. In the poem's final moment we discover that "George," who disappeared off the face of the earth long ago, seems to have been forgotten by nearly everyone, except for the poet who speaks to him now. This colors our understanding of what's come before. --Suzanne Lummis

Second Place

Green Goddess

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block

On those long drives in our old Herald
you looked out of the glass window
counting coconut trees.

On Sundays we went to the Marina
and flew aeroplane kites;
I waited to see the stars.

On a train, going to your native land
for the ‘seventh–month carrying’ ceremony
I disembarked half way, afraid of facing your relatives.

How many years have you been married?
No creature, not even a worm growing in your tummy?
Do not postpone too long, the younger the brisker.

Tulsi, dainty maiden shrub, green goddess
for years I drank your syrup to cure my cough
unaware your potion was culprit.

Prasad, offered by the priests as an ancient “holy” leaf
to chew. That agent the old still use to celibate
I snatch from the reach of all nubile girls.


The figure in this poem speaks in a composed, lucid voice, a language distilled to a purity, but she makes a questionable claim. She blames the herb used in religious ceremonies, Tulsi, for her inability to bear a child. In order to determine whether we have here an "unreliable narrator" I researched the "Holy Basil," and while I found many reports extolling its benefits -- antioxidant, anti-aging, and anti-stress properties -- one did suggest it had led to decreased fertility in lab animals. Perhaps the speaker came upon the same reference. In any case, what matters is that she believes the herb led to her infertility, and in this there is such odd pathos, as if the sacred has betrayed her. It's an unusual, interesting little poem, one in which the poet doesn't tell us what to believe, what to conclude. --Suzanne Lummis

Third Place

Why You Taught Me Loving in a Way That Feels Like Hate

by Midnight Moon
Wild Poetry Forum

Because a red rose has shadows in her creases,
and she sings love songs at midnight
in a saloon by the same name.
Because of this, I’ll remember you
and the red rose city you put me in.

Because bachelor insects climb through shadows,
in the wailing, red rose city of insects,
hypnotized by desire, by her smell,
and because you touched me when I was too young
to know the difference,

I came swimming up from loneliness
into a world of flashing red roses
and thorns.

Because no red petals ever clung to you,
and you had no poetry at all,
I took it all.
I became the one who knew
what you could never know, if it weren’t for me.


This one rolls out a ripe, heated, nearly over-the-top imagery that could hardly be more different from the first two -- but how wonderful that contemporary poetry offers up this variety. "The bachelor insects climb through shadows/in the wailing red rose city of insects" seems reminiscent of Lorca's early surrealism, and it's gorgeous. I love how the closing sentence doubles back on itself, and its meaning seems to fold and unfold. --Suzanne Lummis


  • November 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Hope Springs Like a Panther from a Large Boulder Overhead
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Lullaby
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Love Story
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

  • October 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      The Day of a Girl
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Night Thoughts of a Mottled Songbird
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      The Art of Not Being Descartes
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum