In Your Absence

by Jim Zola
The Waters
Honorable Mention, November 2015
Judged by Barbara Siegel Carlson


Yesterday was soup day, the kitchen a mess
of parts, turnips beheaded, tomatoes crushed.
Hot and sour, potato, stone soup, a cure-all
or just a distraction.

I suspect the kids are feeding the mouse on the sly,
left out slices of bread stale and nibbled. I too
hide behind an armory of mercy,
putting out the traps but forgetting to set them.

On my drive to work I watch the homeless parade
from a stand of trees to take their posts at each
street corner of the busy intersection.
I wonder about what isn’t seen in that small patch
of wilderness. I think of a line from a poem I read
this morning — he’s made himself a study in the trees.

Before the light turns green,
I’m one of Cabeza de Vaca’s lost men
arriving to a gift of 600 open deer hearts,
emeralds. The explorer wrote about a poison
the natives gathered from a certain tree
so deadly that if animals drank from where bruised leaves
had been steeped, they would burst.

What I’m trying to say is I’m lost.

You are my Kashmir, not here,
not actually mine.

I’ve made myself a study in your absence.


Vividly detailed mini-vignettes portray the emotion brought on by the loved-one’s absence. The poem develops from the mind/head (turnips beheaded) to heart/soul (deer hearts with the emeralds inside), allowing the emotion to be confronted directly at the end, making the impact stronger. The line “I wonder about what isn’t seen in that small patch/of wilderness” leads finely to the paradoxical sense at the end of discovering the self through absence. --Barbara Siegel Carlson

  • 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

  • June 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Poem in Exile in the Style of Neruda
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place

      Either February or March
      by Brenda Morisse
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      Accidental Writer
      by Bernard Hamel
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Mouse in April’s Winter
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      Sister Valeria
      by Siva Ramanathan
      The Writer's Block

      Honorable Mention

      My Trip: The Last Siona Dream
      by Don Schaeffer
      Babilu