Winning Poems for March 2015

Judged by Ned Balbo

First Place

Why He Married A Younger Woman

by Brenda Levy Tate
PenShells

He will never sit at my grave, listen to wind
teasing the cedars, murmurs from our history,
voices without translation. His forefinger
will not trace the stone’s curvature, nor must
he watch the carving of my name in dust.

The one who dies first is properly mourned.
My cheek, salt-runneled, practises its collapse.
My hair plans its tangling. On the next plot,
raw ground blights a baby girl’s memorial.
White chrysanthemums soften her burial.

Remembered laughter might waken her mother
from fifty years’ dreaming. Mine? Not even
a giggle to twitch the earth. A lone hawthorn
will drop unberried limbs over my head –
the closest thing to flowers for the dead.


A memorable voice offers hard truths in unadorned lines remarkable for their facility and directness. We fear the grief that calls us to mourn, but we also fear being forgotten. Which is worse? A fine poem that dares to face down the imponderable. --Ned Balbo

Second Place

Learning to See

by Terry Ofner
The Waters

The dove said dove all day.
               —Theodore Roethke

The willow says willow,
dawn says dawn.
Each drop of dew is a sun
birthing its own blade
of grass.

The orchard of memory
is overgrown with weeds,
raspberries gone rogue.
I’m the biggest green thing
in the green apple tree.

Thrasher is secret
to the suckered pear.
Mama turns my head,
teaches me to see.


In spare, simple lines, the world opens up its bounty, defying language yet connected to it, too. Beyond reason’s limitations nature beckons, and we respond—if we know how to do so. --Ned Balbo

Third Place

Rag and Bone Man

by Anne Hamlett
The Write Idea

We’d hear him every week, his call
would echo round the streets, a clatter
of horses hooves on cobbles.

‘ragbone – anyoldrags – ragbone’

And the old brass bell would clang
as children gathered and women
scurried to find a rag or two

of this and that, a torn lace curtain,
a shredded apron, worn thin from years
of wringing hands. His pickings were thin

from our crowded houses of hand- me- downs.
Though we were poor, there was pride
in freshly ‘stoned’ doorsteps.

The rags were exchanged for a block
of ‘donkey stone,’ orange-gold
or pale cream, like the top of the milk.

She remembered the putrid smell;
rotten bones, the sweat of the horse
with bony shoulders – like those of the man

whose skeletal hands gripped the reins
so many years ago; yet his call still echo’s
along the crumbled red brick walls….

‘ragbone – anyoldrags – ragbone.’


Tatters of memory saved like tatters of cloth survive in a second-hand legacy that the poet rescues and recreates. A vivid picture of the ever-receding past. --Ned Balbo


  • March 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Cuttlefish
      by Jim Doss
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Wings
      by Bernard Henrie
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      gutterball
      by Brenda Morisse
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • February 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Nebraska, Summer
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Goldback Fern
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Negotiatin’ Wi Demons (For wee Rabbie Burns)
      by John J. Williamson
      PenShells