Winning Poems for June 2015

Judged by Lesley Wheeler

First Place

De Montmartre à Montparnasse

by Sue Kay
Pen Shells

When I arrived at the Gare de Lyon in October 1906, I had 50 francs to my name, knew nobody and barely spoke French.
–Gino Severini

Being what I am, my solitude acknowledges
your own. I do not speak French. The pogroms
have sent their matte daubs to canvases like refugees
in grey north light, Archipenko, Lipchitz, Survage,
Chagall, Soutine. The smell of maroger medium
like sex, toxic but flexible enough for the rough trade

of art. What dusty harlequin pirouettes in the dream
beneath the dome of Sacré Coeur when it is dark
and all strangers belong to its shadow? The point
of paint is to illuminate and all the ladies in green
grow light with the unease of being known.
Age has its own idiom which does not translate

into the language of fashion. The last word on attitude
drapes flesh with inflection, folds the nude into a question.

Evocative specificity grounds this irregular sonnet in an interesting time and place. Details such as the "grey north light" and toxic "maroger medium" build a world, adding heft to the spill of lovely phrases in the last few lines. --Lesley Wheeler

Second Place

Istanbul Secrets

by Julene T. Weaver

Istanbul, in twelve days, we began to learn
your secrets, passageways that led to the places
we sought. We found the Komondo baroque-style
stairway, a shortcut that enters the alley directly
below the Galata Tower. We learned how to spot
your street signs, hidden on the sides of buildings.

We discovered the alleys that dip into gullies
with gold nuggets at the end—The Museum
of Innocence—a treasure that won the 2014
Small Museum Award, sits in a flood pocket.
We hiked your seven hills, wore out our feet against
the cracks and unexpected sharp drops on nearly

non existent sidewalks. We survived, learned to watch
each step, walking downhill fast like the natives, we dodged
traffic to save our lives. We found your tool district
near the Arap Mosque, Catholic in the 1300s, when you
were Constantinople. We stumbled upon the Jewish
Museum, unmarked and obscure on a dead end

with no name. We crossed your passages of water
and hiked the L.E.D. hills to the Pera Museum. We traveled
from the Old City to the modern city on your tram.
Each Mosque is an oasis of quiet, the only places to settle
and rest from the noise filled streets, second hand smoke,
and carbon dioxide, our throats rasped into cough spasms,

but we found elderberry pastilles in your pharmacies with
crosses that quieted the burn. You have your cures.
We learned this monster city will not be tamed,
too many invasions and transgressions, too many lancets
at its own inhabitants: Armenians, Greek Orthodox, Christians,
and even its own Islamic Ottoman Sultans,

the heads rolled and they still echo against
cobblestones down your narrow streets. Cars
and motorcycles whiz between our footsteps.
We entered you innocent, curious, with respect
we exit wiser, stronger, with a need to recover.
We met retired expatriates who stay so they do not

get lazy or complacent, this city keeps them jumping
for survival. We found art that speaks the body
inside out. Found the pain we rarely see that resides
in each of us. Istanbul, you have the offerings of any
large metropolis: a playpen for the rich, a battle
ground for the poor, a sledge hammer for the angry,

a spiritual haven for the prayers of the masses, for those
who go to the earth five times each day facing east,
for the Dervishes who sell their ritual dance prayer
to the tourists. You provide for the commercial and for
the Holy, you grabbed our hearts with each step
we walked your cobbled hills.

History is hard to pull off in poetry: fact needs embodiment in sensory image. My favorite example of this sense-work in the dense, winding poem "Istanbul Secrets" is the elderberry pastilles. I've never tasted one, but the phrase conjures a scent and maybe sugar's grit on the tongue. --Lesley Wheeler

Third Place

Confusion of the Moment

by John Eivaz
The Waters

Shuffle aimless near ambulances refused
down the road. TV shows overhead of armed
men, and a stand-in school down the road. News
from Gene. Dial 9-1-1, Gene. Who was harmed?

The deceased interviewed. Parents allude,
accept corpses kept in the moldy school
till after dark, yet never saw, nor sued.
Then move, disappear, retire, preclude

meaning. Asbestos too is gone, but non-
disclosure remains. Grave silence. On air
they act. Did they lose a daughter, a son
somewhere? Dashcams show diddly. Statements swear

hundreds escaped. Footage of cops, lunching.
Folks milling round down the road. Me hunching.

The closing couplet of this sonnet is powerful. Like this poet, I wish verse could bring order to a violent world. The best it can do, most of the time, is channel our hope for peace and human connection. --Lesley Wheeler

  • 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