Winning Poems for October 2018

Judged by Jeanette Beebe

First Place

The Emails Go Unanswered

by Lois P. Jones
PenShells

your silence is not quiet
it stomps its hooves
after the rains
have muddied up
the river and I look down
from the wooden bridge
into molasses thick
with distance
with spots of amber
where you can still see
the bright stones below

your silence is an elk
in the forest
in the line of my arrow
the quiver as the antlers blend
with the branches
and I can almost trace
its full form
but it is always twilight
and soon the sun leaves us
blinded
and then open
to the other world

your silence is the moon rising
in a kingdom of stars
it holds an orbit
around a planet
long gone from my sight


The weakest part of this poem is its title, which is almost always good news for a poet — kudos. What's striking about this poem is its confidence in figuring this extended metaphor: silence as an elk in the forest. The speaker positions the elk from multiple vantage points, which is surprising. Certain phrases are closer to cliché (molasses, twilight, moon rising), but even in these moments, the language moves along: "molasses thick / with distance", for example. The ending feels quite strong, especially after multiple readings. --Jeanette Beebe

Second Place

Hidden Room

by F.H. Lee
The Write Idea

there is a place
in my distant memory
often accessible without
my knowledge or consent
it swamps me still

bug bites
shallow stream
wooden plank bridge
water-spiders for company

my father’s old plastic comb
fine prongs scraping through bushes
of over-ripe elderberries dangling from
branches in cloistered dark purple shadow

stained fingertips for days
an open window with pie on the sill
the unequalled rare aroma
my mother’s satisfaction

the effort
the reward
the lesson


The title "Hidden Room" feels like an echo of "memory palace", a way of imagining how we remember (and keep remembering). The structure of the poem supports this idea: each stanza stands on its own, a distinct fragment, a vignette. The strongest point might be "It swamps me still." Set against the rest of the poem — a lesson in careful, honest description — the phrase is a gesture of confusion. It reverberates through the poem. --Jeanette Beebe

Third Place

The Penitent

by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block

Water from the blowhole
falls like a tepid rain.

The great unblinking eye,
the lateral roll,

scissoring of its jaw
and I am his.

Arch of rib and vertebrae,
icthyian cathedral, massive

heart like a hammer,
I can hear blood rush,

the billow of lungs expand
when it rises to the surface.

I trudge the barnacled
tongue to suck gill-slit

elder fish caught
in a sieve of baleen.

Three days in the bowels
of Sheol, I am disgorged

like a coughed up
choke bone, all-foured

in obeisance. I lift my eyes,
set my jaw toward Nineveh.


The word choice in this poem is so rich and full of sensory detail. These flourishes feel fresh: "to suck gill-slit / elder fish" and "a coughed up / choke bone, all-foured." The most satisfying moments are when this spirit of attention plays with sound. Phrases like "lateral roll" and "sieve of baleen", for example, are a delight to imagine and to hear. --Jeanette Beebe

Honorable Mention

You Can Call Me a Tough Cookie, But It Really Doesn’t Matter

by Midnight Moon
Wild Poetry Forum

I’m not from here
I learned how to fight
I can make you sorry

You think it’s OK to treat me like that
I’m a lot smarter than you
You attack me, you use sex as a way

To injure me
But I’m gonna
show you I learned tough things

On tough streets
you ain’t never been to
you will cry

Because where I come from
I’m not alone, and
when somebody shows their hatred for me

Through the Gentle Thing,
the Love Thing,
and then they’re violent

And hypocritical
I am far more powerful
than you could dream

With your slow twisted mind
lying to yourself
about how you’re OK

I’m somebody who’s not alone.




  • October 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The Emails Go Unanswered
      by Lois P. Jones
      PenShells

      Second Place

      Hidden Room
      by F.H. Lee
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      The Penitent
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Honorable Mention

      You Can Call Me a Tough Cookie, But It Really Doesn’t Matter
      by Midnight Moon
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • September 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Let Me End the Way the Dinosaurs Began
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Monotony
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Third Place

      Astrophotographer
      by Brenda Levy Tate
      PenShells