Winning Poems for May 2019

Judged by Melissa Studdard

First Place

I think of the colour purple

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters

There is no cloud inside a cloud
There is no tree inside a tree.
there is no man inside a man.: Sri Moojiji

I found the second spigot, on the side
walkway where the tree slices are
erupting, from gravel. Javier says this
is natural, the several earthquakes. and now
I can water the garden of my sister,
with separate, and shorter hoses for back and front.

I eat a crosshatched, flayed mango
skewered on a stick, salted with chili. Elizabeth tells me
about her mother slowly taking off a glove, and gently
drawing it onto Elizabeth’s hand, and then taking her hand
and placing it on the cadaver’s chest.
“The hand that would not move.” How wonderful,
we marvel, that she did that!

I think of my sister who wanted to read
her goodbye letter to our father…and how I
learned later about false tools, so
I forgive him when she said in her letter

I sat in your lap— and he laughed and
quipped, I was your first lover.
And then he said only, I forget.
I am crushed when I think of that
woman I was, when he was dying,

and he told me, “i’m not like you”
and called me “my other princess”
goodnight, and wanted me
to wheel him to the fifth floor to have a smoke,
and before that, help him take a piss.

And leave the snow on. The soaps, all night.
And massage his weeping legs,
because they damnably itched.

I think of how he appeared after he said, If I find out
there’s anything out there, I’ll come back
and let you know, and how I said Stop,
when the phone rang and hung up, and the lights
flickered, and bulbs burst out.
And he appeared one night, soon after,
while I was alone in the bathroom, dreaming,

and I picked him up by the scruff of the neck,
without any emotion and dashed him
against the wall. And saw, with wonder,
how he emptied his body in a little heap
of cinders, and I nearly shrugged, something
in my body said—Okay.

Turn by turn, this poem surprises. From the strange and delightful opening declarations, to the cast of mysterious characters, to the dilating and contracting syntax, there’s really no way to know what to expect next. Yet, it’s all cohesive, and somehow the leisurely explanations and descriptions feel deeply of the same voice as the sudden, gruff outbursts that are also, actually, beautiful. The entire final stanza makes me feel, to quote Dickinson, “as if the top of my head were taken off” and poetry was poured in from a jeweled pewter stein. --Melissa Studdard

Second Place

Swimming in Twilight

by Peter Halpin
Wild Poetry Forum

It takes days to force myself to go, I stumble
round with one excuse or other, it’s hard
to see the pillar we all leaned on fumble
desperately with each broken shard.

It’s not always about survival of the strong
but the will to live, an innate need to survive.
She has pictures of youngsters on walls, along
the dresser, bedside table tops, I hardly recognise

myself. I don’t tell her I am not my dead brother,
I’ve got used to playing a myriad of departed souls.
We laugh and talk about the old times as I steer her
round memories before the muddle took its toll.

Who is to say what is worse, the fatal strike
of a weak artery or the fog that wraps her in its blanket
as she wanders off, mixing metaphors and faces alike,
placing my precious years in someone else’s basket.

While the mix of metaphors and faces is a hindrance to the relative’s comprehension, it’s precisely what allows for the reader’s understanding of the poem—as “Swimming in Twilight” skillfully unrolls metaphor after metaphor after metaphor in a beautiful swirl of lines that serve as a window into the aging relative’s mind. What a paradox and pleasure to find a meditation on confusion embedded within such precise poetic clarity. --Melissa Studdard

Third Place

In another country with strangers

by Greta Bolger
The Waters

On this side of the border, my dead
are still with me. My sons, my mother
have also made the trip, join me in the night,
give me another chance to care for them,

hear their words, before they disappear again.
The lavender in the courtyard is full of bees
that don’t bite, only pollinate. My Spanglish
is long on buzzing nouns, short on conjugation.

Traveling alone opens a door into a self
both truer and more invented than the one
at home, chips away at your secret boredom,
loosens the lids on gift boxes you’d forgotten,

that you were saving for who knows who,
so that you can freely pass your treasures around,
watch to see who takes them, shares their own,
speaks your language, takes to your kind.

“In another country with strangers” offers a fascinating consideration of how place impacts not only who we are but how our relationships with others are affected by the shifts that occur with travel and relocation. Varied settings and experiences open different rooms within the self, granting both the narrator and the poem great gifts to share. --Melissa Studdard

  • August 2020 Winners

    • First Place (tie)

      Sixth Street Psychic Walk-ins Welcome
      by Mike LaForge
      The Waters

      First Place (tie)

      Houses Houses Houses
      by Mary MacGowan
      The Waters

      Second Place (tie)

      by Doug Pugh
      The Write Idea

      Second Place (tie)

      Who knew you would become a comet
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

  • July 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      An Octopus’s Garden in the Time of Social Distancing
      by Laurie Byro

      Second Place

      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Beethoven Unhappy
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block