Winning Poems for February 2015

Judged by Ned Balbo

First Place

José y Maria

by Greta Bolger
The Waters

We live this winter behind a locked gate,
in a casa much nicer than our home, in a country
where we are not fluent in the language or ways.

The faces of most everyone we pass on the path
or see on the boats or in town are brown,
with various whites mixed in, from Canada

Belgium, Germany; French girls overdressed
in fancy fashions, young American men
with not much but beer money.

Children carry heavy things for us for tips:
bags of food, bottles of water, though I worry
about their slender backs and growing necks.

Tonight, a poor couple set off the lights
on our motion-detected walkway,
looking for someone or something next door,

a very big house with no known inhabitants
but meticulously Mayan-tended grass and gardens.
I did not understand the man, did not know

what to say, but yelled up the hill to rouse a resident
who emerged and stood stiffly on the inside of the fence
shaking her head steadily no, no, no, no, no

as the man with gold-framed teeth, and his wife
and their baby wrapped in a rebozo stood on the outside,
the man pleading his case, explaining their hope —

for a job? A place to sleep? A long-lost brother?
The night was cold for here, 50-some, and windy
and the woman turned them away anyway.

A powerful poem of class division and social commentary that is also a perfectly pitched dramatic monologue. The speaker’s tugs of conscience cast a troubling light (and Biblical overtones) on the inaction that turns away a family in need. --Ned Balbo

Second Place

The Improbabilities of Flight

by Dale Patterson

For thrills we trespass, park with lights out
on a private service road. Jets pass overhead.
Throttled back they drift to align with the runway,
winged zeppelins falling to earth.

Mr. Hastings dashes X for unknown velocity.
Your snicker booms as he hands me the chalk,
says calculate an infinite number, make it
reasonable by rounding. In the silence
that follows I draw fragile stickmen.

Reverend Knowles says I will abandon you.
My warrant for failure to appear fuels his belief.
I am reminded of something else he once said,
“a wee bit of faith will rise above doubt.”

Our heavy plane crosses Lake Michigan. I awaken
as your hand touches my face. We bank in a riff
of muted jazz trumpets, the shadow of wings
climbing hillsides of waves,
silver sunlight on water.

Four memorable lyrics that take to the air literally or metaphorically. From impossible-to-master mathematics to a Reverend’s remarks on faith and an airline passenger’s tender moment, we are transported. --Ned Balbo

Third Place

Born with a Burden

by Lee Crowell
Wild Poetry Forum

The grasp of my son’s hand around my throat,
his growl that a blood brother sniper friend will
put a bullet in my head doesn’t seem to crush me
as completely as when I retell the event in this oak
paneled chamber seated behind a table with a single
black microphone. Because I know she is listening,
the first connection I finally make with the system and I
can easily break down but right now my job is to get the story
told right. Two uniformed deputies and a court reporter seem
to soak in my words and I can almost hear them swear thankfulness
to their gods that they are not me. In the end she grants my request
and I walk out of this old stone building with an order that tells him
not to come back. Tonight I lie back on the couch. All I see is me
and him the last time we pedaled bikes to Flood’s for beer and
wings. Eight stapled pages lie on my dresser to protect me.

A plainspoken poem tracing a parent’s response to a son grown dangerous. In its unadorned language we confront the empty protection offered by a court order against the emotional discord and very real fear that will probably last a lifetime. --Ned Balbo

  • 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