Winning Poems for January 2015

Judged by Ned Balbo

First Place

Mama Carving

by Terry Ofner
The Waters

Summers she sat out under the willow
carving buddha from a stump—
a wild cherry uprooted in a storm.
She hung a 50-foot extension,
hauled out a record player on days
she wanted to listen while she worked.
Field guide to western bird songs, a 4-LP set.
The Scarlet Tanager: chip-burr! chip-burr!

She oiled the wood when the weather turned cold,
let it rest all winter in the utility room. In spring
the old seer came out of hiding, a surprised smile
blinking in the light. When she started I was nine or ten,
would sit on a branch overhead reading comics
like a passing thought she might ponder then let go.
I had left for college when she wrapped up the chisels
and declared defeat: I’m done. All those seasons.

The trees in the neighborhood grew, thickened.
The abandoned house next door fell in.
They carted it off in a dump truck and let
the yard go to nettles, boxelder, and elm
on its way to some kind of climax. The buddha
wizened under chisel and knife, darkened
as cherry will in the sun. There at the end
she would tip her head and smile:
a passing warbler in a tree somewhere,
out of normal hearing, out of sight.

Haunted by time and love, "Mama Carving" summons a lifetime of quiet watchfulness in images well selected and admirably concise. Birdsong, recorded or real, is the soundtrack of a lifetime, as is the poet's quietly eloquent voice in witness to a changing landscape. A fine elegy. --Ned Balbo

Second Place

All Things Want To Tell The Truth But Can’t

by Lisa Megraw
Wild Poetry Forum

Take the car’s burnt out body, oil gushing
over the frost tinged highway.

The kettle that has boiled over in anger,
flowers torn from the stems

because without truth
there must be release,

like the apple tree moments
before the sky breaks into rain.

Take the man who has limped
home through bushes, fence posts,

weaved through stars of Cypress vines
in confusion, a gash running like a road

across his head, but his wife won’t listen
any more. She packed her love away

years ago next to her socks and passport.
Now as the night ticks on between the static

of radio stations, a bruised apple
leaning against a hub cap

begins to feel its skin seal over
the dark slush exposure.

Whether they do or not, we want to think they do, and this poem helps us to believe it. Only rarely does our tendency to see the inanimate as alive result in a poem so true to the shadows of the human heart, our inability to repair what's wrong between us. --Ned Balbo

Third Place

Eden and Other Places

by Gerry Callaghan
The Write Idea

We weren’t tempted to the fruit.
It seemed to us no more
than standard fare.
And the serpent was our jester,
not a grifter, not a shill,
at worst a babbling pet.
We’ve travelled since.
In Gilead we slathered
balsam oil on failing limbs.
We’ve known the hospitality
of Sodom, and of Bethlehem.
We don’t go back to Eden.
No one does.
It’s like the moon.

A dramatic monologue that is all the more convincing for its concision. If we forgot that Adam and Eve were driven from home, this poem reminds us that the pain of watching the past become ever more remote is part of the human condition. --Ned Balbo

  • January 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      You Arrive Like Fall, Suddenly
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      Waiting for the Second Coming
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      by J.J. Williamson

      Honorable Mention

      When I Go Out and Then Come Back
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • December 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      The Abandoned Woman
      by Midnight Moon
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Taking a Tumble
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea