Winning Poems for February 2022

Judged by Carol Graser

First Place

Grand Central Station

by Christine Potter
The Waters

I was never afraid there. It was
the castle I owned— above me,
a painted-blue sky with labeled
constellations I had every right

to love. The stones on the wall
were almost gold and I was going
somewhere, or home, a child, a
young woman who rode elevators

to jobs she didn’t like in tall old
buildings just as graceful, holding
a bag with a buttered roll and hot
sweet coffee in a thick paper cup.

Or laughing into the place late
and a little drunk, running to the
gate, the 12:20. Or the day when
it snowed and snowed and I was

let go early into a noontime dull as
old silver. Astonished, I danced my
way down Park Avenue for soup at
the Oyster Bar, to wait for my train

as if I were just another grownup—
and I was, sated, paying, tipping,
every soul in Midtown a blizzard I’d
rooted for since before I was born.

The writer captures the feelings of youth in a particular place and moment with exuberance and vivid imagery. --Carol Graser

Second Place

Back Stage

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block

For a child dropped in Sabhas
going backstage was the other part of life.

What seemed heavy was light
as card board, gold was foiled paper
the Raja Ranis wore silk or velvet.

In Kerala, backstage was grandiose.
I sat on the compound wall of Ammuma’s house
the masked Gods diminished to mere men.
The story continued from midnight to dawn.

They said TSK had pebbles under his tongue
when he was Auvaiyar.

As a kid I watched Shivaji Ganesan saunter
in his ‘Enga Mama’ car
as I brushed my teeth
with Colgate tooth powder at the gate.

At work, his makeup man might dust pink on his skin.
The face albeit, he would give none.
Who could name the nerve that twitched
or the eye-brow that arched in surprise,
but he himself?

An enjoyable poem from a child's perspective on 'backstage' with lovely layers. --Carol Graser

Third Place


by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block

A rundown Vet’s club. Plush forty years ago.
Sticky floor, gum under tables, sawdust
on the dance floor. Nobody dancin’.

Two guys in the back shootin’ snooker.
A little black man in a sharkskin suit,
a size too big, sits at the piano. He’s been

told he sings like Satchmo. In his youth
he headlined for a well-known band.
The vets’ wives ask him to do the one,

“You know, the one.” He smiles, downs
a seven and seven, takes a long drag,
lays a burning Camel on the glass ashtray

piled high with butts. It’s thirty years ago,
thirty-one. He’s been headlining Fridays
and Saturdays at the VFW for the last five

years. Short order cook during the week.
Drinks on the house. Cardboard sign
taped to front door. His name in stencils.

I like the story of this poem, it's both compelling and clear. The writer has also given us a wonderful ending. --Carol Graser