Ache

by Michael Creighton
The Waters
First Place, October 2008
Judged by Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald


The year I turn 15, my father leaves me
with my just-widowed grandfather
and my first full-time summer job.
Each day in my lunch, I find fresh fruit

and a sandwich so fat it stretches
my jaw. Axe down, among rows
of old pine, I learn to love
the tang and bite of mustard on rye.

After work, I stay out with friends,
walking the town’s mile-long
main street, drinking cold soda,
looking for girls.

If he’s awake when I return
we discuss baseball,
the difference between jack pine
and white, or the pain

in my shoulders and neck.
He says, the Cubs haven’t won a pennant
since your mother was three
but there’s no harm in hope;

jack pine grows fast, but gives
poor wood–and as for that pain,
son, there is no cure for an ache like that,
save deep sleep and time.

Just once I come home early–
he is slumped in an old oak chair.
As he sleeps, his shoulders shake.
Dust hangs in sunlit air.


This was very close. It was almost a tie between first and second. We loved the rhythm of the poem, the story it told, and the conciseness of the writing. Its theme is both personal and universal. --Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald

  • June 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Escape at the Speed of Transience
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      The Palace Hotel
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      Camping
      by Mike LaForge
      The Waters

  • May 2020 Winners

    • First Place

      Burying My Brother
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

      Second Place

      The Asian man who walks past the balcony
      by Daniel J. Flore III
      Babilu

      Third Place

      Five Hundred Yards from Home
      by Richard Moorhead
      Wild Poetry Forum