Winning Poems for August 2019

Judged by Lois P. Jones

First Place


by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters

It would take more than blood had I lost that much

I would need the hillside of ivy
                              ~ Allan Peterson

The chanticleer, every greenly dusted Cieneguita morning,
-Cieneguita meaning, once was swamp- bends his comb
to the boy’s toes bared, his body slanted across
the guest bed. The boy has been dreaming
for such a long time, he needs to wake up.

One small nip will do it, but he gets five or six
in quick succession, one for each of the realms
he might be lost travelling in. The chanticleer’s
name is Rover. He is well-named, not
displeased with the joke, roves freely

in and out of doorways, and through the yard
where the women outside hang their washing
on bamboo fencing. He does not mind so much,
the gangle of the spoon clanging on a soup-pot,
when he roves too far, for the mistress is someone

he recognizes from another life. He doubts her threats,
the last he saw of her, she had been repenting of
every sign and omen she had ever misread, and only
came to embrace the happy surprise of
being proven wrong: by a slant of light

on the thrust lip of a tiny flower out of season,
by the call of a bird sounding like laughter
in the upper sky, after the thought of having been
wrong, — by, at one point, everything seemingly
saying, yes, you were wrong, yes, you
are a dream, and no, we cannot do without
you. The chanticleer has woken the boy.

from his bad dream. He has done his best
morning work, and now he will begin to perfect
the way the shadows fall and twine between
inner rooms, turning them more blue, and the blue
more violet, and he will look up—only inwardly—

to the painted birds sleeking from billows
of gold rimmed clouds in the dome over
the grandmother, and the grandson, visiting.

Don’t think he doesn’t know who painted those birds,
and how she came to be there—visiting. He didn’t
nip her toes. Not even as a joke. Or, that he doesn’t know

who cut his throat, another time, another place, when
he saw the hillside covered with ivy, the way
the sudden sky cracks open, the last thing

he consumed—and his heart said, as his eyes
closed, So, here
it is, finished. Again. I love you—
I have forgiven you—

What a clever figurative and literal reincarnation of the Chanticleer rooster whose connection to the Canterbury tale might be in name only. Nonetheless, this poem has the charm of a freshly hewn fable striking the reader on several metaphysical levels. The protagonist rooster (now Rover) meanders comfortably through its grounds, ably familiar with his past and the irony of his present incarnation. No mere rooster, he’s a mystic, able to animate his world as the poet animates the reader with language twining between/inner rooms, turning them more blue, and the blue/more violet, and he will look up—only inwardly—to the painted birds sleeking from billows/of gold rimmed clouds in the dome over the grandmother. Beautifully imagined with a denouement that’s more than a twist of grace – it’s a study of compassion and the enduring power of love. --Lois P. Jones

Second Place

Last Game of the Season

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

Under high clouds we wave our thunder sticks.
I recall biking to this stadium
as a kid, the air stuttering

from baseball cards pinned to my spokes.
When the team won it was like the clouds parting,
an omen of good things to come…

The game is different now.
I will never pitch in the major leagues.
No one scouts the stands

for old southpaw talents,
their hair greying like wild thistles.
I should give up following sports.

Why get excited over what
others do? My neighbor Anna
says distractions at our age, even chasing money,

are like pissing on a house in flames.
I stand up for the seventh inning stretch,
and scan the park

trying to memorize
the players lobbing balls to each other
in the outfield, beneath the bright towers…

another year, this my seventy fifth–
like my youth–a pop fly lost in the lights

Nostalgia comes alive in the air stuttering/from baseball cards pinned to my spokes. This poem scores high for both its internal music and the poet’s ability to condense memory into metaphor that makes a universal leap. Poetry is what we do when our bodies betray us and the dream becomes a pop fly lost in the lights. --Lois P. Jones

Third Place

The Fine Print of Rescue

by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum

I have a new way of putting
on my shirt so that the joy remains

The joy remains intact and yet the
dance of particulars
lead to a reverie invaded.

A reverie invaded
with the solitude of a child’s
lone ranger.

A child’s lone ranger replete with rescue,
deep loyalties to each other,
the truth of our lives.

The truth of our lives struggles with manners
of habit, the likes of which restrain

The likes of which restrain passion
as a force beyond

A force beyond knowing
pitifully named
the voice of the unknown.

The voice of the unknown which
Truthfully weeps and says
I am sorry, which means something.

When sorry means something,
I’ll be sorry

If an opening line like this doesn’t make your smile stand up and pay attention, nothing will. This poem reads like a renga for one, leading us down the philosophical trail which is less marked than worn through the poet’s cryptic experience and aphorisms. The final apology reverberates with its multiplicity of connotations when sorry means something to the eternally unknown. To the narrator? To its subject? To the forces of forgiveness? Intriguing and worthy of multiple readings. --Lois P. Jones

  • 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