Winning Poems for September 2017

Judged by Tim Mayo

First Place

Rodent Ulcer

by Jude Goodwin
The Waters

The heavy headed sunflower
is turned away,
more interesting things to watch on the roadway
than in our little yard
where two dogs press their noses
through a gate
hoping to bark
i make warning sounds in my throat
they look back at me
as one, then turn again
their fur dusted with late summer marigold.
It’s been five days since I sat with my doctor

and let him put his hands
on my face, his knife.
On one of those days the sun
cast crescent shadows for two minutes
even on our arms and cheeks
A rodent moon
had gnawed its way
into the light
no one expected to be frightened
but when the day went dark
and the birds stopped singing
we turned away, our heads down
truth, like death,
needs goggles,
or cereal boxes with pinholes
Someone offered me a piece of obsidian.
The sunflower does not actually follow the sun

turning its flat face to track the day
and I don’t anymore, either.
My heliotropic days are over.

I love that the poet never mentions the word “eclipse” in this poem, and it is that image which governs the speaker’s careful ironic visual unfolding of how his/her cancer has affected them, and how the eclipse has not frightened the people she/he is with. The intertwining development of eclipse image to both show how it affects the inner life of the speaker in relation to the disease and how it does not frighten the people around him/her who perhaps do not know of the cancer that the speaker has. Although, it is never mentioned I read into the poem that the speaker had melanoma which would heighten the sun image even more. A beautifully developed conceit. --Tim Mayo

Second Place

Wild Beasts

by Bernard Henrie
The Writer's Block

Rain cleans the casino windows
bright as a yellow tiger. The night
quiet as a purse thief.

A girl lights a Gauloise, she walks
the boulevard naked under a raincoat
and a the wide brim of an ostrich hat.

The liturgical night comes for me.
Streetlights hum under their breath.
Thinning streets, empty, alabaster air.

Tomorrow I’ll clear out, take that job
with the Tribune, a weather report
says I’ve seen the last of you.

Perhaps because I had a high school friend who worked for The Herald Tribune in Paris, this poem resonates a little more for me than it might for others. Nonetheless, the economy of words sharpens each image the poet presents in each stanza, and gives the turn of the last stanza an almost blues-like quality. The poet begins the first image in the poem with a background of chance by making the windows “casino windows.” Along with the chances at the end of the poem that the weather report might be as wrong as it might be right leaves us with the possibility that the speaker’s decision and it’s consequences are never surer than chance itself. This poem is a great example of the economy of language and how that economy of language can heighten the experience of the poem. --Tim Mayo

Third Place

The Two Windows of My Room

by Sivakami Velliangiri
The Waters

A shock of hibiscus buds swayed
outside the rectangular window
leaning on the inner side of the compound wall.

Directly below on the soil
land lilies threw out their pink horns
facing the sunlight.

Crossing the street with the eyes
one saw two brothers stand on a grinding stone
never at the same time and the mother who watched
what her sons were eyeing at.

On the outer side was the square window
outside which ten o’clock and four o’clock flowers boomed.

There was so much beauty you knew
something would come flying into the room
and shatter, blood on the writing table,
a disarray of green feathers, like that dead parrot.

From the flora and fauna of this poem we are in what is or was a peaceful, sub-tropical place. The balance between flowers “booming” on the outside window the glass of which is finally shattered by the green parrot in the final stanza and the peeping tom brothers and their mother who are spying on the speaker in the vulnerable sanctuary of his or her room make for a very interesting juxtaposition. What are our inspirations and topics when we go away to write except possibly the newness of where we are? --Tim Mayo

Honorable Mention

Giving Thanks

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum

Often late at night when the moon hangs
like a hive in the highest tree,
I take down the box of sharpest Crayolas
and begin to shape a life on a clear sheet of paper.

The outline of a window emerges,
divided like a heart into four chambers.

In one I draw a man sitting at his desk,
his eyes swirling with the dust of the Milky Way,
his fingers resting against his temple
in the shape of a peace sign,
a hummingbird tattooed on his neck
sipping from the carafe of a honeysuckle flower.
I call this serenity.

In another I sketch
a woman standing by a stove
in a sky-blue dress with clouds passing through.
In her hands a dove rests
soft as pillow to lay her head on,
its breast stained red with the eye of eternity.
Steam rises from a pot of boiling potatoes.
Its weeping coats the panes,
reveals those words of loneliness written there
with the invisible ink of fingers.
I call this survival.

In the third
I trace a hand reaching
for the blushing green skin of an apple
grazed by the wind’s teeth
as it clings to a leafy branch.
But just as the hand starts to close around the fruit,
another reaches out to guide it
toward a face where callus touches softness.
I call this love.
On a good day I might call it singing.

Lastly, I outline
the stick-figures of children,
sexless, all dressed the same
as they hold hands smiling in the sunshine.
Grapes ripen on the vines around them,
little worlds exploding with each mouthful,
as the daisy chain of kids stretches ever smaller
toward the horizon, a wish only half conceived.
I call this eternity.

Then I color the window frame
with winter weather, mist rolling in
from the water, the cracked skin of a birch.

At this hour
the house grows quiet as a river
winged by hands that flutter out to hush the sleeping,
and my name barely remains my name,
my death hardly a nest to lay in
with its comfort of subtraction as the days tick down.

Lord, I ask very little,
but grant me a table to sit at,
hands to fold in prayer
and the strength to say Amen, Amen, Amen
through nights blacker than any color the eye can see.

  • May 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      I think of the colour purple
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Swimming in Twilight
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      In another country with strangers
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

  • April 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Furiously Overcome by Stars
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Ides of March
      by Rachel Green
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      Natural History
      by Antonia Clark
      The Waters