Winning Poems for March 2018

Judged by C. Wade Bentley

First Place

Cuttlefish

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum

They don’t touch as they battle,
the males in their dance of dominance

until only one is left to gather
the female into his tentacles,

wrap his extra arms around her as he pulls her
into his den, face to face, massaging her egg sack

with his sperm. The sea rocks their bodies back and forth
to the rhythm of life being created, continuing,

flourishing in the w of their eyes as their colors waver
between light mottle, intense zebra then passing cloud.

The offspring drift off on the tide, translucent
against the turquoise blueness of the shallows,

cutting through the egg casing, eating shrimp larvae,
growing until they bleed into the sandy bottom,

the limestone rocks, the coral, the seaweed
as they ambush the unsuspecting crab or fish.

When the fisherman’s net scoops them skyward
they turn startled deimatic, flaming red stars

rising through the brine. The restaurateurs
slice through the blanched flesh with their filet knives,

paring the most succulent pieces from the bone
for the risotto al nero di seppia the waiters

present their loyalest customers, those whose rings
glisten anciently in the muted light as if

they were cast five hundred years ago in de Medici gold
poured between the hollowed out bones of a cuttlefish.


I didn’t know that I wanted to know cuttlefish so intimately, but I feel richer for having read this poem. I’m reminded of Elizabeth Bishop’s fish poem, in which the poet has observed the creature so closely that the poem moves naturally beyond pure description and allows each of us to experience a thing as if for the first time. And then we pull back to a wide shot in those perfect final couplets. --C. Wade Bentley

Second Place

Wings

by Bernard Henrie
The Writer's Block

Hiroyoshi shows a photograph;
She wears western clothes,
dark velvet, I think, to the ankles
suitable for an orchestra or ballroom;
severe jacket, an oversize brass
chrysanthemum at the lapel.

Hiroyoshi and I fly everyday;
my uniform hangs down like his
in the humid press of the jungle.

Overhead, short-waisted bitterns
wheel and fall on the yellow
canebrakes. Any puff of wind
like steam off a kettle.

Fewer pilots each meal,
he writes his sweetheart,
then sets the paper aside.
We will soon fly.

Airborne,
he calls to alert me,

Sakai,

Sakai!

our two fighters surround
an Australian Kittyhawk
in a ripe line of sky.

We fire until the plane
disappears over the soiled
mass of Port Morseby.

In our tent, Hiroyoshi
quietly reads his poem.

High-up seedless clouds are matted, ruffled white
as face powder. Sakai signals “go home.”
A motor is hardly needed to pull my plane toward base;
I set the fuel lever to “Lean,” edge the cockpit open.
Fresh air sweeps around me and I am a flight scarf free
on wind, my only friend goes ahead and I follow
rising on the incense of chrysanthemum ash.


Such lovely movement, in this poem, both in time and space. The symbol of the chrysanthemum, central to Japanese culture, frames the narrative beautifully. And it’s a very nuanced narrative—a perspective on the war that we seldom see—and what a perfect and awful choice to end the poem in ash. --C. Wade Bentley

Third Place

gutterball

by Brenda Morisse
Wild Poetry Forum

With a roll of their eyes, they sandbag my unruly halo, caution to quit
glowing and start bowling, to change into sensible shoes. Glide.
They’re all strikes and girdles.
One-two-three swing. Drop and spin. Pray for me.

I preach scraps of the orange and violet sunset, even though the team
wants legible print. If only we’d learned another craft. Taken up bookkeeping,
added real numbers and then subtracted them in black on white unlined.

They’re convinced that my game has the wrong split and scold God to open
another hand, but he’s content to hoard the secret in mine.
So, I count fingers and multiply the treaties, divide by divorces.
What’s left is the raft for our troubles.

I release my grip and down a few with the pompadour from the next alley,
pass him a loosie as I toy with my gold-plated bangles and notorious snake pin.
I remind him about the anniversary of his second chance.

He’s a homeless dancer and origami artist, sways heel to toe, a racket of clicks,
then folds into the bend of my knee. In the rush towards the gutter,
the updraft has emptied my habit. I glance down at his attention.
Curbs surround the lane. Curbs and parking meters. Right turns. Time.

We follow the yellow line but always end up in the kitchen baking the gooey pies
frosted with sweet butter. We’ve choked down twenty pounds in the last month
but it’s better than shooting rocks, they say.

I should have lived by the brook. Picked dandelions, made tea.
Now we weigh into the bottom of Mama’s bureau,
wallow within the wrinkles of the night
even the openmouthed windows wait to feed below the horizon.

The streetlights make promises. We pass by a church and cross our tees for good luck.
First we move across from the Zoo. Then, further west. Now we’re anchored
in Jersey and posing with photos of our future. We splash tears on our cheekbones,
carve grooves where there ought to be stains.


This poem is a rollicking ride, and it requires one to roll with it and not worry about staying within the lanes. It’s as if it had been filmed with a hand-held camera, cutting from shot to shot before we can get comfortable. This poet does not wear sensible shoes. --C. Wade Bentley


  • August 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The World Is Moist in the Morning
      by Terry Ofner
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Epitaph
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      I kissed a tree
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

  • July 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The First Time I Drank With My Father
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Bicycle
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      J. Alfred Prufrock Searches for Mrs. Right
      by Laurie Byro
      Babilu