Winning Poems for June 2021

Judged by Sarah Carleton

First Place

Longfellow’s Wife

by Ken Ashworth
The Waters

For years, she choked back
the dust of domesticity, the
indignity of birthing six children,

the annoyance at strangers
in her parlor with gifts of
gold, frankincense and myrrh.

She was only a woman after all.
And when she had enough, she
erupted in flame, charged up

the stairs and would have taken
him with her but he beat back
the fire with his hands and face.

"Longfellow's Wife" flares like a lit match. The poet conveys, in a few well-chosen words, the suppressed fury of a woman relegated to the role of helpmeet. Within this spare narrative are auditory gems—particularly, "dust of domesticity" and "…enough / erupted in flame, charged up." And Longfellow's desperation in the last line hits the reader hard because it is so understated. --Sarah Carleton

Second Place

In My Next Life I Want to Return as an Animal

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

I’d not be a camel,
though each morning the sun
breaks over his hump. Where’s the glory
in carrying your baggage?

Maybe a Bengal tiger
sprawled on your Persian rug,
daring boyfriends
to call on you.

Or perhaps a gator
— big rudder of a tail
patrolling your pool,

discouraging poolside parties
and skinny dipping.

The chameleon in me wants to return
as a gecko on your wall,
eavesdropping on hints
of yet another lover in your life.

Truth is, I long to return
as a howler monkey
belting out my heartache
whenever you walk by.

"In My Next Life I Want to Return as an Animal" impressed me with its light touch and clever use of metaphor. The poem flashes conflicting moods of protectiveness, jealousy, and anguish, all in the guise of various creatures. The language is simple and playful, almost like a children's book, but a complex adult story emerges from between the lines. --Sarah Carleton

Third Place

A Windy Walk

by Paul A. Freeman
The Write Idea

The wind slaps the pages of my open notebook,
pronouncing on a half-written sonnet,
insisting I desist and pay the gusting some heed.

At the Sheikh’s monument the guitar-taut wires
roar like a thousand clamouring halyards,
distorting the wise man’s countenance.

On the ocean side of the breakwater,
exposed to the surging sea spray, I shiver,
watching the white-capped rollers turn to briny spume.

A single gull flies high above the tumult,
eyeing Poseidon’s belligerence
and a hunched up poet on a windy walk.

In "A Windy Walk," the poet is both in the poem and outside of it, the point of view gusting through in four discrete stanzas. The poem's imagery is striking and spot-on—I can just hear those wires and feel that sea spray. This is a delicious poem. --Sarah Carleton