Winning Poems for November 2017

Judged by Michael Larrain

First Place

Hope Springs Like a Panther from a Large Boulder Overhead

by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum

Drums. More drums. We’re drifting up this lazy river, headed
upstream to kill the king. He’s gone insane. So have we.
We have no friends and our enemies are everywhere. The dreaded
news-borne disease takes hold of us. It’s a misery.

We babble at anyone who will listen, “Darkness, horror, grief.”
But no one will listen. The jungle is full of vanity and death.
We tire of standing guard over valuables, just give them to the thief
who hovers near our shoulder. We smell his fractious breath.

I used to wear clothing made of butterfly wings, a bitch to clean,
but light, you know. Now I wear cast-off skins of the rattlesnake.
I’ve stored my kindness in the mud. In a tortoiseshell canteen.
Maybe I’ll retrieve it when there’s much, much less at stake.

Hope springs like a panther from a large boulder overhead,
spitting joy, clawing happiness, bringing life, and all is well.
There’s bread and there are circuses. Ah me. At least there’s bread.
And always, always, we’re allowed to rot right where we fell.

Part of the reason I love this poem is that it reminds me so powerfully of Warner Herzog’s movie, “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” There is a dark and altogether delightful sense of humor at work here. And I love the reference to “news-borne disease” which reinforces my refusal to ever watch the news. The colloquialisms are very American (“a bitch to clean”), but hiding behind them is Joseph Conrad, ever-watchful. I wish the author would substitute some other word for “fractious,” but apart from this one minor quibble, this poem deserves nothing but praise. --Michael Larrain

Second Place


by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block

She bore the days
trailing from her waist
like a child’s paper chain

the way the moon
indentures the waves:
night after night
dragged by the hair across
a sea that rocks
its dead like a mother.

When she’d had enough
She slipped into the tub,
and closed her eyes
For the last time against

The same mad grief
they say made God
drown the world.

This poem is no less painful for being so very gentle. Its tenderness is conveyed in short, beautifully broken lines, a tide rising and falling within it. A man could grow a maternal instinct, could almost become a mother merely by reading it. I lost my own mother early on. She died by her own hand. So might perhaps relate to this piece more readily than other readers. But I cannot imagine anyone encountering it and not being moved. The author has accomplished one of the great purposes of both poetry and prose fiction: to widen the range of our sympathies, and deepen our sensibilities thereby. --Michael Larrain

Third Place

Love Story

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

Who knew after
the laboratory and tower

imploded that a young man
would fall in love with me?

How can I explain to him
that I am incapable

of love? I’m as split
as a harelip:

from the start my brain
and body were rivals–

my body a slow child,
refusing to be tutored,

demanding its needs
be met.

It longed to be lewdly groped,
its heart a slut’s.

I was as abhorred by its behavior
as I was by The Creature.

Even now my past
defines me: can I rise

above the graveyards
I was born in?

I long to escape

to be a wife, a mother–
to be more than the sum

of my parts, the way
a family is.

Yet I fear a man’s touch
as much as I do lightning.

A sad-funny variation on the Frankenstein story, the monster made female and suffering from a dreadful mind/body divide. The young man who has fallen for this unusual being had better proceed with caution. Her mood swings could decapitate her lover. --Michael Larrain