Winning Poems for December 2015

Judged by Barbara Siegel Carlson

First Place

Sailor and Young Wife

by Judy Kaber
The Waters

In the photograph my father’s fingers sink
into the fur on my mother’s jacket. It’s 1942
and he stands in his sailor’s uniform, complete
with hat, at what might be taken for parade rest,
one arm neatly tucked behind his back, except
for the fact that his other arm holds my mother
tight, as if to steady her, to steady them both.
She smiles fiercely, leans close, clutching
her purse, her eyes slits against the bright
autumn sun, against the newness of marriage,
against a war that seems like it will never be
done. They’re not alone. A shadow thrown
to the right might be someone drinking
from a can or cup, and bottom left the anonymous
photographer, now long gone, awkward bones most
likely buried in some bowl of earth. My parent’s own
shadows truncated, falling off the curb onto the road,
already moving with the sun into the unknown.
Above them, a streetlight globe like a blessing,
across the street a brick archway, apartment entrance,
what might be two children, standing alone.

Emotionally complex and powerful. The tension and contingency are created through the tightly woven form, echoing sound patterns, off-rhymes and sharp concrete language. Lines are arranged to heighten the contrast and irony inherent in the themes of love and war. Enjambed lines propel the relentless future forward and create a sense of urgency and loss. The final turn offers a degree of hope and stability juxtaposed against the innocence and helplessness of the image of the couple as children. This arresting poem resonates on so many levels. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

Second Place


by Lisa Megraw
Wild Poetry Forum

Yesterday l pressed open the wings of a starling
and found amongst the hem of its feathers the loosest notes

of my history, shadow torn as if tattered by the wind.
Webs spooled over hedgerows. My grandmother’s coat

buttoned against the wind as l gathered pine cones, armfuls
of fern. A flight of sparrows following a path of light

through the thicket as the days shuffled, rearranged themselves,
and the metallic tang of moss and bark struck almost like a match

across the tongue, but not quite, because loss is like that,
incomplete, legs itching to move but with nowhere to go.

School shoes closed like caves for the body to fall into.
Because isn’t memory a coalescence of only a fist

full of moments like a glass of water at my grandfather’s bed
that moved against the arc of the sun then shattered;

the flowers inside his chest breaking
one by one as he coughed over their blossoms.

And the wind shaken by the branches outside
riding up over the lane like the crest of a wave to bury

us to our knees because isn’t the act of loss more like a gravity
that can take you over. The heart of a starling burning

through your chest.

Such startling, evocative imagery. The poem develops in a surreal manner revealing its truth about the nature of memory and sense of loss in a way that is both haunting and moving. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

Third Place

November’s Window

by Brenda Levy Tate

Not for me the crisp lace,
sheers afloat on fall air,
pale drapes full of cool drafts.
My view is naked and open;
I need fear no evil beyond
these frames that raindamp
rinses clear.

I hang no curtains over glass –
nothing to mute sunrise,
noon, the awe-full flare
aiming in. Beams burn my prayer
plant, stigmatize its folded
leaves. Truth scars what it

Sparrows and jays debate;
I lipread through the panes.
Feathers catch in hedge webs –
ivory, buff, charcoal, cobalt.
Squirrels and canny starlings
peruse each other, songbirds,
and me.

Muntin shadows reach out,
lay crosses on my arms.
Thorny limbs wear barberries
bright as lovers’ wounds.
Birches unroll bark in strips
like bandages. I can hear
the world bleeding.

Fresh, sensual language brings out a sharpened and deepened view of the natural world through the un-curtained window. The arc goes from inside to out as well as from physical to divine further sensitizing us to the world’s beauty and pain that is its reality. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

Honorable Mention

to return we must all go into the wind

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block

the child isn’t sleeping
beside the fence

what country
do i call my own?

his scarf
flutters in the wind
fallen flag

for what will i die
any less than life?

too far too close
now silence

is my grave dug
from the soil of the heart?

a fence
doesn’t keep out
the wind

Through its haiku-like lyrics and unanswerable, compelling questions the subjects asks, this poem addresses themes of homelessness and the plight of refugees, as well as mortality in a penetrating and paradoxical manner. --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