Winning Poems for April 2022

Judged by M.B. McLatchey

First Place

To Patrick

by Sylvia Maclagan

                    my son, who died aged 29 of ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I’ll just dream these lines, since you’re no longer here;
your voice, your laughter and your soul
are sunflowers in the summer air; I know you stole
their light to fill my waking hours with Irish cheer.

My love for you is wedded to the morning’s
elemental time, a coffee cup and friendly chat.
I spy the raindrops sparkling on your jaunty cap
my heart recalls each time the doorbell rings

three times. I hear the lively flute you’d play
for many radiant years; and in the knowledge
that you were going to die, I prized Commencement Day,

the youngster in the park who sketched your image
on artist’s paper. I know God shows the way,
absence, instants in life’s troubled pilgrimage.

What draws applause for the most celebrated elegies is a control on emotional chaos: the heart’s restraint so that art can commence. This control is what we experience in this carefully crafted elegy for a son. The loss of a loved one alters our daily lives – and, as this poem portrays, the most ordinary sights and sounds can become an unending requiem: “my heart recalls each time the doorbell rings/ three times. I hear the lively flute you'd play … and in the knowledge/ that you were going to die, I prized Commencement Day.” Plenty of room for sentimentality here –and yet, in verse lines that attend to a measured form, this poem achieves a beautifully-measured portrait of enduring love. --M.B. McLatchey

Second Place


by Elizabeth Koopman
Wild Poetry Forum

Foul beast stalks
my sister, low to the ground,
round in circles,
filthy matted fur –

darted in, years ago,
tore off a piece
with slimy fangs
slunk off then
hid for years
too close to see

coward beast
ravenous beast
nipping inside
bite bite bite
til now
it devours

Wallace Stevens said, “Poetry is the priest of the invisible.” This poem makes cancer visible. The Grendel-like beast that stalks a loved one and that “slunk off/then hid for years/too close to see” is what most of us know as remission, then recurrence – but what this poem unveils as the internalized monster that cancer is: a “coward beast/ ravenous beast”. As in the more accomplished of poems, this poem’s masterful imaging of a slow death – “bite, bite, bite” – in fact, champions life. It chooses art over surrender. --M.B. McLatchey

Third Place

Grandmother in Heaven

by Jim Doss

….after Philip Levine

Darkness eases between the leaves
of the maple as you walk with a basket
of windfall gathered from Seelman’s orchard.

In it you’ve gathered red and gold apples,
green pears with a touch of blush on their cheeks,
and blackberries oozing with juice. You follow

a dirt path raked over by chickens
to the covered porch with its glider,
rocking chairs, and moths circling globes of light.

You hesitate by a long-forgotten door
where grey wood reveals the soul hidden
beneath a skin of flaking paint.

It’s now years before your second son
will lay in an improvised incubator
made out of blankets, a basting pan

and the oven’s low heat as you nurse
his fight for life with a medicine dropper
filled with your own breast milk.

It’s decades before the last heart attack
will turn your red hair silky white overnight
as the hydrangeas bloomed in your yard.

Now you step across the threshold
to become your father’s plain Irish daughter again,
greeted by the silence of his pipe smoke.

It follows you into the kitchen, watches
you empty the basket onto the oak table,
count the pieces one by one

while he sleeps in a lounge chair,
newspaper folded into wings
across the soft rise and fall of his chest.

Tonight you will sit in your room,
braid a love knot before the mirror,
waiting for that black haired German boy,

face sunburned from the fields, but cleanly washed,
to toss a pebble against your window,
show you there is nothing plain about the darkness.

“A poet dares to be just so clear and no clearer,” E. B. White tells us. This homage for a deceased grandmother unashamedly celebrates the poet’s just-so-clear memory of a woman, mother, and mentor. The accomplishment of this poem rises from the fact that, stanza after stanza, a story of toughness, resilience, and love’s various forms is captured through biased memories, but not too biased; through selected scenes, but not too favorably selective; through images that are just so clear and no clearer. --M.B. McLatchey