Winning Poems for July 2016

Judged by Lee Nash

First Place

Vestiges

by RC James
Babilu

In woods around my home in fall,
broad trees concealed within brown leaves
at pre-dawn, dark men, frozen all
like blue and grey clad dusky thieves
behind the trees; a wayward dream.
Spooked horses whimper all in vain,
as ghosts of Chickamauga scream,
dim vestiges alone remain.

The curve of her soft back recalled,
sustains the husband on his march,
reduced now to a staggered crawl.
At rest feels her on the larch,
then rises in a shaky reel;
November’s relentless rain
restores the bloody, grim ordeal,
dim vestiges alone remain

Cold bodies lie from cannons’ sprawl,
loss conquers gains in victory.
In fields of wheat men stand in thrall
and those from both sides clearly see;
like those at home might too, bereaved,
mute avowal of the slain.
The dead surmount dead; country cleaved,
dim vestiges alone remain

Co-mingled soldiers’ blood conceives
ground plowed come early spring; inflamed,
waves gold in sunlight shine, relieved,
dim vestiges alone remain.


A well-crafted and evocative ballade that explores the visual and emotional remnants of war, "Vestiges" reminds us of personal loss and of the echoes of past battles that, if we quieten ourselves enough, we can hear reverberating. We read "bereaved," "slain," "dead" and "cleaved" in the third stanza yet move on toward "conceives," "spring," "sunlight," and "relieved" in the envoy. The vestiges remain, as a warning, yet we are offered hope. --Lee Nash

Second Place

A Docent’s Guide to the Collection

by Russ Smith
Babilu

You wonder if it’s worth
a summer afternoon indoors,
instead of golf or tennis…

He had sufficient wherewithal,
and bought this old stuff — art and
furniture and tapestry and sculpture,
genuine perhaps, more likely
nineteenth century counterfeit —
with help from wily agents and

persistent needling from a second wife,
who found conspicuous wealth
to be as trendy in America,
whether east or west, as in
the France of Louis Fifteen
and Madame de Pompadour.

Chairs embroidered rich with animals
from Fontaine’s fables — (one does not
impose one’s bum on images of people) —
fox and sour grapes to comfort
guests who’d not yet reached
the dollared stature of their hosts;

hangings made for Bourbon patrons,
using natural pigments that have faded,
sadly, from the ravages of light,
and populated landscapes which
have also suffered ruinous histories
but still contrive the gloss of gold;

Gainsborough portraits
of other people’s ancestors
scenes with no familial import
whether Barbizon or Ashcan,
having one aspect in common —
high price, if no apparent value;

rooms and sculpture gardens full
of allegories by unknown Italians,
Remington westerns, Epstein portraits,
Dianas with their bows and quivers,
stone dogs by a distant relative,
a Brillo Box by Warhol —

in the end, a necessary visit,
now that he is merely dead.
His pigeonhole is public once again.


A lively, tounge-in-cheek piece that takes us on a tour of the treasure trove of one collector's extravagant yet undiscerning taste, and ends with a clever turn of phrase as we leave the exhibition. An original choice for a title and from start to finish, artfully done. --Lee Nash

Third Place

The Deaths of Saint Winefride

by John J. Williamson
PenShells

Fair Winefride approached a priest, by the holy well,
and said, I must live as a nun
and take a vestal cell.

A prince of Flintshire sought my hand, by the ancient well,
my calling roused his bloody wrath
around this woodland dell.

Young Caradoc was lost to lust, by the ancient well,
and when I warned my bond was God’s
he screamed of Jezebel.

Cried the priest to Winefride, by the holy well,
I hope you pleaded chastity
and damned the infidel.

I tried, I tried, she sighed with shame, by the holy well,
but in his rage he lopped my head,
the spring is where it fell.

But here you are, dear Winefride, by this holy well,
your headless claim is ludicrous,
so pray, child, kneel and tell.

It seems the Lord has blessed my house, by the holy well,
for here I kneel with all my wealth,
St Bueno’s hands restored my health,
knowing that for all my stealth
I’d die again.

The priest proclaimed, Then they will yell –
a glorious tale of Holywell.


A fine recounting of a strange legend, where the use of playful end-rhyme for such gory subject matter makes for an effective contrast and the repetitive rhythm is nicely altered in the final two stanzas to bring the story to a close. An engaging and interesting poem. --Lee Nash


  • May 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      No One Here Is Dreaming
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Lot’s Daughters
      by Shawn Nacona Stroud
      Desert Moon Review

      Third Place

      Perhaps This
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Let No Man
      by Laura Ring
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Smiling at a Hotel Bar Window
      by Bernard Henrie
      The Writer's Block

      Honorable Mention

      Seven Years in Laredo
      by Kendall Witherspoon
      The Waters

  • April 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Roasting
      by Marilyn Francis
      The Write Idea

      Second Place

      The Sorrow of Hearts
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Dancing at Midnight
      by E. Russell Smith
      The Write Idea

      Honorable Mention

      Silver Bed Head
      by Laurie Byro
      PenShells

      Honorable Mention

      The Little Loss
      by Dorothy Doyle Mienko
      PenShells