Winning Poems for July 2019

Judged by Lois P. Jones

First Place


by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters

(Kingsmere, Quebec)

Our hands come loose
Flowing with long grass

An ant scales a mountain
Of melba toast, labours
Under our year of blue

We break, we crest,
grasshoppers lop

Off the tips of
Bended crows’ nests

The waves

We sip
like bees–

You lounge
With one long-for-you
Leg, resting

upon the other.

We have no such
Wooly ideas


We will ever look
On this day

With no four leaf clover,
No sheet lightning storm
No meeting with
The ghost that drove
The nation, but tea

In the public parlour,
And a rockaway
View, over it all

— Dunked velveteen
Hugging the shapes
Of hills

That skirts the river
Free, the view free, and the picnic
Basket you brought me

From another century—
Yellowed ivory lid,
Pasted Butterflies, locked

On Tiny golden hinges, black
Basket Weave, sturdy, and

A widow’s
Velvet ribbon
All about, a sedate bow,

No earthly notion
This is it.

In no particular order.

The more I read this piece, the more I appreciate how the poet carefully shapes the breath of the poem to meet its subject. A breath which creates a vaulted space in which a moment lives – perhaps levitates would be more appropriate – within its purposeful structure. We enter in media res and while certain wonderful details ground the poem in the physical world “under our year of blue Cheese” the reader remains aloft in its spell. The poem’s clever use of modifying phrases builds from line to line, “With one long-for-you/Leg, resting upon the other.” There are allusions to time but it is skillfully kept timeless in phrases like “The ghost that drove/The nation”. It could be any time as well as our own when history has amped up our collective sensitivities to national concerns. Later, the picnic basket appears “From another century,” a kind of added balm, evoking our longing for objects as remembrance, even comfort, made in an age when the world was not caught like a wounded bird and placed daily at our feet. There are delicious mysteries to be relished in the poem’s subtleties: a “widow’s/Velvet ribbon/All about, a sedate bow/” but just enough without being obtuse. These are mysteries you can trust. --Lois P. Jones

Second Place

June 6

by Don Schaeffer

For the first time
we felt safe in our heat.
We didn’t feel the risk that it would fail us.
People had stopped killing dandelions
and they gathered in great yellow herds without fear.
The lilies stood together in families and tribes.

I did what I was supposed to today.
The mailbox was full, I emptied it for the group
and put the large key in the right slot.
I took out the trash.

The Sals made a decent Rubin.
Across the way, through the window
a man rolled a stroller into the bus terminal.
As I was driven by
a helicopter landed on the roof of the hospital
I’d never seen a heliport in operation before.

There was laughter in the restaurant
The laughter word was ha ha ha,like comic books.
I wondered where the extra emotional impetus
that made the laughter real came from. I thought the belly.
A man said ha ha to show his insincerity. It was
almost the same sound.

I saw a movie about a woman who won an election.
It made me cry. I don’t know why.

The diary conceit works wonderfully for this piece which is a comfortable and directed ramble through the narrator’s day. The opening line engages immediately and as we move into the whimsy of the second line we are already deep into dandelions “gathered in great yellow herds without fear.” It’s moments like this I miss the great Ray Bradbury and feel his echoes where story and fantasy meet. As the character pushes the narrative we receive further hints: why were they “driven” and not driving? Why does something as mundane as a helicopter and a heliport make us question identity? In the penultimate stanza, the narrator leads us into the day’s odd and distancing observations which could be seen as a kind of cultural disassociation commending the odd days in which we live close in to social media swirls and yet detached in our day-to-day dwellings. What really makes this poem is the surprising turn of the last line and all that resonates in the reader. --Lois P. Jones

Third Place

Shakespearean Soliloquy – Boris Johnson

by Paul A. Freeman
The Write Idea

Ambition be my guidance and my star, 
and Number 10 my Calvary; I’ve vied 
for Caesar’s mighty mantle ere today 
when Govius drove in his dagger’s blade 
betwixt mine own two blades before he fled. 
Howl, unchampioned pack! I’ve got the nod. 
A New World sovereign fancies to anoint 
this brazen Brexiteer who brooks no deal – 
no base extortions shall Britannia cede. 
My backer, nay, my brother ’cross the Pond, 
sees mirrored – orange-haired and of his ilk – 
a statesman that embodies love of self 
and craves a pristine homeland free from those 
diluters of our Anglo-Saxon blood. 
E.U., adieu! Cue transatlantic trade! 
From Mayor to Caesar, aye, I’ll catch the flag, 
for leadership is all but in the bag.

This humorous soliloquy deserves attention for its deft use of form and its bravado in mirroring the Bard. With our two twin leaders we are forced to look with humor at the brash Boris, “this brazen Brexiteer who brooks no deal.” It pokes fun at the now Prime Minister’s arrogance and bold claims and his demagogue brother across the Pond, “a statesman that embodies love of self”. Whatever we feel about these two leaders, political humor will always be one of the necessary answers to political disengagement. --Lois P. Jones