Winning Poems for July 2018

Judged by Kathleen Hellen

First Place

The First Time I Drank With My Father

by Ken Ashworth
The Waters

Nurses wash you with long hair
trailing over ribs and rigging,
faint blue outline
of a Spanish tri-master
on custard colored skin.

In the Liberation of ’44
you sailed the Champs-Élysées
with the swagger of conquest.

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,
litter your path with flowers.

Now you’ve pissed yourself again.

I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,

I side-step through piles
of soiled linen.

Fetid air masks
the two shots and a beer
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come.

In this carefully crafted poem, a delicate tension exists between the past and present, the beginning and end---between a father and son. Between the title---“First Time I Drank With My Father”--- and the heartbreaking closure (“the last/ of your sons to come), the poet delivers with skill and restraint the details of a life lived to the full (“sailed,” “jostled”) and its debilitation with aging (“orderlies” and “soiled linen”). --Kathleen Hellen

Second Place

My Bicycle

by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum

My bicycle was black and silver, had laser
cannons, anti-gravity supersonic switches,
a two way radio that could reach secret
locations. Its wing span was forever changing.

Much like now, actually. My bicycle took
me to Mars, Jupiter, Pluto, Saturn, Mercury
(because of its special cooling system)
the Moon, and Uranus. Uranus. Get it?

Much like now, actually. My bicycle did
ten gerzillion thousand miles an hour on Friday
nights when no one knew where I was or
what I was doing. That was cool. It was.

Much like now, actually. My bicycle is
enshrined in the My-sonian Institute next
to my younger imagination, my first kiss,
my wildest dream. My bicycle rocked.

My bicycle spoke to me last night in a
dream. It said, Bicycle to Boy, urgent, urgent,
many things need rescuing, please contact
me ASAP. Like now, now, now, actually.

Whimsical detail, language that flies (“anti-gravity supersonic switches,” “ten gerzillion thousand miles in an hour”) are skillful counterpoint to the urgency of theme: How to recover what we forfeit when we age and cease to dream? In this delightful poem, the bicycle serves as central metaphor for unrestrained potential, our “wildest dreams.” It speaks to us like a radio from “secret/locations,” “… please contact/ me ASP. Like now, now, now….” --Kathleen Hellen

Third Place

J. Alfred Prufrock Searches for Mrs. Right

by Laurie Byro

The day that man allows true love to appear, those things which are well made
will fall into confusion and will overturn everything we believe to be right and true.
― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

I never wander far from the smoky streets of home where fog drifts
and settles, smothers windows and clings to panes. Voyeur-mist,
I can see through it to a luscious life. The women are not whores

as I suggested, just not interested in me. I write them as cerebral,
art and literature is their pursuit. I write myself as a character-poet,
a failed Don who lusts after these willowy untouchables, yet I

would settle for a dishy-siren with a tail. A water nymph of courtly
fable does know how to finally shut up and seduce good men into
leaving home. I could marry a girl like that. She will adore me.

Bespectacled, respectable me. I am a little weird, I admit with
my penchant for Montecristoes and the taste for an expensive Roe.
It would be simpler if she is human with the proper appendages.

I shall run an advert. Yanks here know all about Craig’s List.
Social Media I think they call it, I am in a hurry to catch up.
Some group, the Beach Men or some such, a jingle on my

Faceblog page, I dare say I can do this thing. Do you like
peaches or mangoes, I shall ask. Getting soaked in the brine?
Do you adore salty nectar on the rim of a glass? Do you walk

the beach as I do? I have no fashion sense but I can learn. I shall
supply you with embroidery thread. You can make our commitment
to barefoot trysts a permanent endeavor. Dear Girl, I want nothing

more than for you to share my love of Wagner. It matters not
if you do not sew or darn. I am well versed in domestic pursuits
and can brew a mean Tequila Sunrise and spin lemon curd as well.

I am a romantic but can be pragmatic, even earnest. I am a good catch.
You see, I am a crusty old thing, a bachelor after all. I do have pity
for crabs, lobsters, all crustaceans really. They, despite their hard exterior

have a beating heart, the love of a sea garden. All they want
is companionship and possibly solitude. Have I mentioned I go for therapy?
I have odd neurotic habits. I fear doorknobs and rejection.

If you are a siren will this be the love that dare not speak its name?
I yearn for a normal life not just as a cup with a broken handle
but as a couple. See how clever I can be? I should mention I have great

hair. The bald spot is being made redundant. Little Darling, will you comb
the beach of life with me? I have the desire for a rich, contented future.
I want a happy end for us both. One that doesn’t result in a bitter

stew, a late-life divorce, the black kettle singing merrily
on the stove and you and I, potted, circling round one another
warily, butter slightly chilled and waiting on the table.

Prufrock comes alive in this poem densely studded with allusions to the original. The narrator---“a failed Don”---has been fast-forwarded into the age of social media and his foray into “Craig’s list” and a “Faceblog page” is both humorous and endearing. The poem is an epistle to the one “Dear Girl” who might answer this profile rich with sense and sound (“dishy-siren,” “willowy untouchables”). --Kathleen Hellen

  • June 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Escape at the Speed of Transience
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      The Palace Hotel
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      by Mike LaForge
      The Waters

  • May 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Burying My Brother
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

      Second Place

      The Asian man who walks past the balcony
      by Daniel J. Flore III

      Third Place

      Five Hundred Yards from Home
      by Richard Moorhead
      Wild Poetry Forum