Winning Poems for November 2015

Judged by Barbara Siegel Carlson

First Place

Woman With a Hat (1905)

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

Fauves, I am not what you wanted. When you ogled me
wearing the sea over my head, I went silent on the canvas.
Smell me, the sweet iodine of high tide, the awkward

swirls of sea-fur and ocean kelp, drying in the sun. I am
the crooked-paste of turpentine and oil gone bad.
You want to think I am not the salt-spray on the pursed

lips of Odysseus as he struggled lashed to the mast.
He gurgled his envious sea chanteys wanting to be home.
I started as a garden, became the ocean. It was he who

silenced the sirens and not the song that silenced the sea.
Envy is a wicked man’s game. My husband goes
back and forth in love and hate for his rival. He paints

mountains in the brim over my head, waterfalls, the
blue earth’s breath. The tusks and scales are hidden
from the eye. They are there, all the same, the pounce

of a tufted paw. It’s all inside the forest of the brain, eye-lashed,
captured: minds to the mast. They call the room where
his paintings hang a cage. But if you release us through

these bars you will notice how our skin leaves a faint
buttery talc. We are salt swirled, the callus on a conch. We are
forgotten tears drying, freckles on the face of a tiger lily.

The voice of the woman in the painting draws the reader into her depth of her vision through its powerful and engaging language. How the artist tries to capture the animal soul the woman as subject possesses that is ‘hidden from the eye’. The images, surreal at times, are both sensuous and sharp, drawing from myth and revealing another reality, leaving us transfixed and transformed. A masterful work. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

Second Place

to the poem with glue on its feet and a patch over its eye

by Brenda Morisse
Wild Poetry Forum

you’re afraid of glare and unexpected steps
you can’t see even after the operations
you want another knitted poem to hide beneath
where you can dream the monotone voice
of my voice soothing your empty-headed twirling
when you grab a what’s-the-word-? at every rotation
where random consonants cozy up
to flattened vowels and the unexpected
syncopation bounces over our heads
and I say “You see?”

you worry about your chin sagging into the next page
how your character lines have deepened into the first skin and draft
you want your hair combed your dead ends tied up a little blush
to walk down an aisle and rhyme
you my dear poem are a silly bride flaunting curves on 4th street
“Look at me look at me before our worries erase us” you beg

you’re a dirty poem you refuse to wipe or mop or tidy up
you leave the panties where they drop insist that the coffee cup
sheds its life in the watermark on the desk
how the dust gathered around
the stillness of the pencil when we were blind

There’s a great sense of imagination, irony and intrigue in the way the speaker personifies the poem trying to find words for its real nature which it always eludes. The language is dynamic, playful and surprising, with shifting tones that capture the various attitudes the speaker has toward the poem. I especially love the ending in its contradictory turn and mystery. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

Third Place

Urban Crows

by Ieuan ap Hywel
The Writer's Block

“The swans will sing when the jackdaws are silent.”
                    — Roman and Greek Adage told by Erasmus

They rock and loll in plane copse tops
weep wind lullabies in feathered roosts
Keep late hours courtesy of neon and fluorescence
lights from the shopping centre and motorway
Look down onto the wide screen of the Indian Balti
Avid watchers of news and weather bulletins

Measure our mundane lives, note our passing
to the: Coop-shop, Italian Café, Post Office
and William Hill’s betting booty. They know me
after half a lifetime and give the ‘good-human’ caw

Visit our garden, drive out smaller birds
shake up the seagulls on the prowl, for us
gifts: a pebble shining smooth from the brook
a Pepsi Cola bottle top bright with colour

They feather their nests with our detritus
their chicks not unfamiliar with the face of
the Queen, a blue windswept find from the
park, woven into the fabric of their rest

A law unto themselves, black harbingers
of death, forecasters of rain, storm and tempest
They assemble in murders when funerals pass
to line up on the telephone cables

They knew when Egbert would die, surmising
his demise from the sweet smell of his decay
Followed him home, perched on his roof until the day
the cortège picked him up for the drive to the Crem

Urban crows, not inferior in their eyes to us
peck with nonchalance, move unhurriedly away
when checked – we live in their territory
Mob cats – a daily pleasure, torment dogs
just because they can – and strut their stuff

They eat well, have a penchant for curried
dinners, cast-aways from restaurants opposite:
curry rice, fish, chips, Rees’ Pies all speckled
with alcohol-induced vomit – all the same to them
They wade through the mess, leaving swathes of
chips wrapping-paper around the kiddie’s playground

When the apocalypse strikes and the skies burn red
and black with dust, when Geiger increases its count
crows will take over the world
Their intelligence will rule
they will speak of us with fondness
yet glad we have passed on

Swans sing when crows grow weary of their caw

This poem travels a great distance in its catalogue about city crows. It begins playfully describing them that ‘rock and loll’ in tree tops. Sweeping in vision, it moves through several landscapes in rhythms and images that capture their nonchalant takeover. The list of foods they eat is carefully chosen and described with verve creating a tension that leads to the growing irony and import as is the juxtaposition of kiddie’s playground to the apocalypse. The casual tone depicting the end of humanity at the end is chilling. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

Honorable Mention

In Your Absence

by Jim Zola
The Waters

Yesterday was soup day, the kitchen a mess
of parts, turnips beheaded, tomatoes crushed.
Hot and sour, potato, stone soup, a cure-all
or just a distraction.

I suspect the kids are feeding the mouse on the sly,
left out slices of bread stale and nibbled. I too
hide behind an armory of mercy,
putting out the traps but forgetting to set them.

On my drive to work I watch the homeless parade
from a stand of trees to take their posts at each
street corner of the busy intersection.
I wonder about what isn’t seen in that small patch
of wilderness. I think of a line from a poem I read
this morning — he’s made himself a study in the trees.

Before the light turns green,
I’m one of Cabeza de Vaca’s lost men
arriving to a gift of 600 open deer hearts,
emeralds. The explorer wrote about a poison
the natives gathered from a certain tree
so deadly that if animals drank from where bruised leaves
had been steeped, they would burst.

What I’m trying to say is I’m lost.

You are my Kashmir, not here,
not actually mine.

I’ve made myself a study in your absence.

Vividly detailed mini-vignettes portray the emotion brought on by the loved-one’s absence. The poem develops from the mind/head (turnips beheaded) to heart/soul (deer hearts with the emeralds inside), allowing the emotion to be confronted directly at the end, making the impact stronger. The line “I wonder about what isn’t seen in that small patch/of wilderness” leads finely to the paradoxical sense at the end of discovering the self through absence. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

  • 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