Winning Poems for October 2016

Judged by Richard Krawiec

First Place

A Brief History of Blood

by Teresa White
Wild Poetry Forum

Blood on the marriage sheets
for the village to examine.

Blood seeping into the white pad
the beef lies in.

Blood in the birth chamber,
the stainless steel stirrups.

The blood of our fathers
christening a bayonet.

Blood in running water
a nick at a time.

Blood spun in a centrifuge,
blue blood in the vein.

Blood red roses in a long box,
a ring, a kiss, a wedding dress.

I selected this poem for First Place because it was the most focused poem of all the submissions. It knew its theme and honed in on it. Although it could have been longer, the lines were precise, without any wasted words. --Richard Krawiec

Second Place

Passage as Pantoum

by RC James

I don’t pretend to know answers,
only questions occupy me now.
Holy gestures are not an abiding end;
I’m trying to fathom the distances.

Only questions occupy me. Now,
forever kneels in silence.
I’m trying to fathom the distances
as you sing on the other side.

Forever kneels. In silence,
my grieving in itself contains lessons.
As you sing on the other side,
those who hear you might gasp and take pause.

My grieving in itself contains lessons.
Holy gestures are not an abiding end.
Those who hear you might gasp and take pause.
I don’t pretend to know answers.

I generally don't like pantoums, to be honest. They often seem too aware of their technique. So it was nice to read one where the repetition focused on the point of the poem, its exploration of death and grief, coming around, as it seems to me, to the personal response being more important than the ritual gestures. Again, I liked the tightness of the lines, the sense there weren't any unnecessary words. --Richard Krawiec

Third Place

Grandmother’s Avvakai

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block

Mangoes diced with seeds intact
tossed with salt to offset osmosis of brine;
chilli, fried fenugreek and mustard powder;
ample gingili oil that holds it together
and prolongs the shelf life. No substitutions.

Grandma had the mangoes sliced,
seeds intact with a fulcrum knife.

She squatted in the foyer with porcelain jars
lined up like the seven virgins at a shrine.

Her vocabulary was foul, but her hands were clean;
she gagged the mouths of these jars with muslin.

Three or four months in the store room,
then they rode to Madras along with cattle in a lorry.

My childhood curiosity led me to peep in
on those afternoons when Kitchaan and the house slept.

Grandma had swear words as long as her ear lobes.
She let them loose whenever she could not
hold fast to her wander-lust husband.

Two things remain in my memory –
the smell of fried mustard, and the long list of
her husband’s sly-widow paramours.

This was a bit looser than the other winners, and not sure the recipe is essential, but I enjoyed the originality of the images - swear words as long as ear lobes - and the use of slant rhyme. --Richard Krawiec

Honorable Mention

A Poem for Ash

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead
from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
D.H. Lawrence

Enter the poet

Just as I move from lip to urn, to coffee can for ease
in transport, the eternal butt mass produces more of us.

We imitate ghostly snakes, we writhe and grow
like a runaway dream. We are the mist off Capri,

the languid soul as it enters bergamot air, sea-salt
and goats drenching the pores on a rocky hillside.

A sooty diesel train rocks us in our death-crib then
we are spilled at the station. We are gathered

and cupped in an enemy’s hands, reviled and praised
all at the same time. One myth has us suffocated in

cement, unable to leave this place, forever bound
to all future dreamers. In truth, we are satisfied to

sleep in a bowl on a poet’s mantelpiece, a pinch
and sprinkle swimming in a Martini potion (and sometimes

morning tea), we taste like lapsang oolong. We are a last
spell as we conjure the unforgiven back to our lair.

Honorable Mention

Mosquito Lagoon

by Shawn Nacona Stroud
Desert Moon Review

For My Father

Sunset kindles water, metallic flames
furrow and ripple to shallows.

This inlet of plasma won’t ignite, the Haulover Canal
trickles and dies with little dashes
against our boat’s hull. All evening
fluid surfaces yearn to burn, complicated only
by occasional boat drone or manatee
materializing like a submarine
before ballast tank floods

into its next dive. The pelicans have survived.
A flock rises to flee molten waters; I watch
as they vanish westward over palm frond horizon
which scrims Cape Canaveral. Darkness
is not particular to surface side. A firmament of smoke
and ash now dims what’s below, and the moon—

she is my mother. She sluggishly rises, all
wide eyes and tight lipped smiles
tattoo her face of phosphorus. She’s always inadequate
here, father rattles and clatters inside his boat, produces
her dome-light replacements to spotlight the tide—
she is incapable of such brilliancy.

By midnight, shrimp flit past circles of illumination,
we splash our nets until dawn.

Honorable Mention

In The Pavilion

by Terry Ofner
The Waters

The American woman at the railing
commands the view of the garden.
A young man (her son?)
settles, head down, on the bench.

She reads from her phone
the price of koi by the inch,
select and choice—
a lesson in finance.

I study the joinery of the rafters,
post and beam, gaze into the bamboo
framed by the round window
in the stucco wall.

The cedar in the pot
back in the visitors center
has been bent and trimmed
for 225 years.

Two children, belly down
on the planks of the bridge,
poke sticks into the water—
Wake up, you old fish! Wake up!

Honorable Mention

Lines Drawn in Water

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters

“I am your own way of looking at things,” she said.
— “When I Met My Muse,” William Stafford

She took me from Charlotte Street where I had been searching
for the house with the glassed-in porch under the eaves,
where we used to sit when I was twelve, crowded around the table,

bathed in the many glittering squares of the sub-divided windows.
The lot empty now, the house next to it is a women’s shelter.
Saturday afternoons, after market, we would unlatch the windows,

lean out; watch the midsummer leaves swish, the way a cat watches
birds that are well out of reach. And we’d pick from communal plates
of rainbow-coloured combinations Carl had dreamed up for us to eat.

My mother’s exotic cannabis cigarette left gauzy tendrils in the galley-
kitchen. She and Carl laughed and murmured, moved past
one another with a musical sound, washing up later. In our old house

in Manordale, no one had laughed in my memory, washing the dishes.
My father would be there, behind me, or my sister — a sudden tall
blocky chill, and would pluck a glass from the beige, wiry dishrack,

hold it up, examine it. If he had been dark that day, or had come home
from the after-work parlour, or the trunk of his car was deep
in brown bottles, you could feel the crack of his hand

before it came. The back of my head shudders a little, sometimes
waking up in the morning, back in my body, or lying down
at night, it saws away at the pillow, as if rustling a joist—

She tells me, “This is not your way
of looking. Those eyes are hollows, and we have use for them.
We will plant pond lilies. Where is your magenta, that you keep

like a solid treasure box, under your ribs? We can employ
a breath of that, a veil to brush the funnel edges,
where the hollows swirl. To close the tunnels. Like water,

they are spinning fast, counter-clockwise. Empty.
Let’s reverse that.” I see a trowel. It hovers in space. A garden fork.
Like birthday favours. An orange wave of fattening carrots,

their green feathery boa. I lift my hands—like a child, to show her,
they are clean. I have finished
washing the dishes. Now, she has put me to bed.

There isn’t a sound.
I am coming up
Sun gold.

Honorable Mention

How Did It Go

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

To return to the cottage your family rented each summer
      is like crossing into a foreign country,
the warm sighs of waves rocking against the shores
      drowned out by a nearby club’s punk rock band.

You return to a sky no longer dusted with constellations,
      but to one lost in a fog of city lights.
Is this where you and Sally crooned Beatles’ songs?
      Here, where lyrics are lost in a haze of dangerous noise?

To return, you were sure, would invigorate you,
      but your soul remains as washed out as the night sky.
As you did fifty years ago, you wander outside for a smoke.
      The stars have vanished, like the nightingale.
Can you still mimic its whistle? How did it go?