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

  • December 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      By Waterloo Station
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea

      Second Place

      Patagonia Lost
      by Sylvia Evelyn
      Babilu

      Third Place

      I just wanna come home dad
      by Daniel J. Flore III
      Babilu

      Honorable Mention

      The War Bride
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      Beethoven Dying
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Honorable Mention

      Ain’t Got Time To Die
      by Christine Potter
      The Waters

  • November 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Rapture
      by JJ Wiliamson
      Babilu

      Second Place (tie)

      Red Spider Lilies
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place (tie)

      The Big House At Mambalam
      by Siva Ramanathan
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place (tie)

      What Have I Done to Thee O Muse
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place (tie)

      World Affairs
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Morning
      by Mary MacGowan
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      A Can of Grandma Figlioto’s Pasta Sauce
      by Daniel J. Flore III
      Babilu