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

  • August 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The World Is Moist in the Morning
      by Terry Ofner
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Epitaph
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      I kissed a tree
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
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  • July 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The First Time I Drank With My Father
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Bicycle
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      J. Alfred Prufrock Searches for Mrs. Right
      by Laurie Byro
      Babilu