Winning Poems for September 2020

Judged by Ron Singer

First Place


by Elizabeth Koopman
Wild Poetry Forum

This old, small saucepan
comes to my hand
every morning, to boil my egg.

So, this morning, after I heard
that you have tried to die, again,
here it is,
copper bottom rough with use
smooth inner walls,
And the earth settles
under my feet.

This matter-of-fact, very short poem (46 words) pithily hints at a full, dramatic story: someone is dying, perhaps at their own hand (“tried to die, again”). But habit dies hard, and the narrator finds the pot in which she always boils her morning egg. And that dear, mundane object (“copper bottom rough with use/smooth inner walls/friendly”) somehow makes the world right for him/her. “Love” is a very original poem. Its compression creates a powerful effect. --Ron Singer

Second Place

Church of the Wheelchair Ladies

by Mary MacGowan
The Waters

The sun always came in at a certain time
through a window near the nurse’s station.
The wheelchair ladies would slowly
make their way. If you asked them
where they were going, they couldn’t say.
But they got there, and napped
in the sun, their heads hanging
down tragically, fine dust motes
floating around them. It looked bad
to visitors, though, so we were
to move them. How about I take you
to your room for a nap? They’d answer,
Oh no, thank you dear, it’s so nice here,
in the sun. We’d wheel them to their rooms
anyway, and then, before we knew it,
they were back, their petite slippered feet
splayed like murder victims, or saints.

This poem casts a penumbra around its mundane subject, women at an old-age home who enjoy sitting in the sun. The matter-of-fact tone keeps the poem from being sentimental, a hazard of poems about old people. The lines are fairly even in length, and the poet uses internal rhyme at a few key junctures “make their way…they couldn’t say” and “thank you dear, it’s so nice here. Both the imagery and sound pattern of the closing one-and-a-half lines are startling and beautiful “Their petite slippered feet/splayed like murder victims, or saints”). --Ron Singer

Third Place

The Green Mirror

by Runatyr
Wild Poetry Forum

Miranda planted herself by the window
as a little light left her face—
more than one might expect
from a setting sun

and by Halloween she glowered
at the walls, more macabre than
the ghost hung over the doors
of the garage.

That winter brought with it
an unbearable pall, a cold cover,
a dearth of words from a girl
rooted at a sill,

wan face more enervated
than the final, feeble
wobbles of a crack-free egg.

One day in cruel April,
her mother invaded the sanctity
of her sepulchre, smiling like
a fool—

she brought Miranda a flaccid,
suffocating thing of drooping
green shoots and soft, wide
leaves, their sheen lost.

African violet, her mother
imparted. Nearly gone. Thought
she’d try the window in Miranda’s
room, she lied.

Miranda let it sit
but she stared at it for hours
and the more she stared, the more
she saw.

In the morning she Googled
“care for African violets,”
and by the end of the day,
she had named her plant Eva.

This poem skillfully navigates its way through its potentially maudlin subject, the possible redemption of a mentally ill girl. With just enough mystery about what is going on, the poem builds to its climax. In the last stanza, the redemption is kept from being saccharine by a reference to the Internet: “…she Googled/’care for African violets.’” In its vivid description of the flower as “a flaccid, suffocating thing,” which suggests the girl, “The Green Mirror” reminds me of Keats’ “Isabella, or The Pot of Basil.” --Ron Singer