The First Time I Drank With My Father

by Ken Ashworth
The Waters
First Place, July 2018
Judged by Kathleen Hellen


Nurses wash you with long hair
trailing over ribs and rigging,
faint blue outline
of a Spanish tri-master
on custard colored skin.

In the Liberation of ’44
you sailed the Champs-Élysées
with the swagger of conquest.

Women jostled to be first
to touch your face,
kiss your hand,
litter your path with flowers.

Now you’ve pissed yourself again.

I give my name to the night clerk,
fresh bed clothes to orderlies,

I side-step through piles
of soiled linen.

Fetid air masks
the two shots and a beer
it takes to be the last
of your sons to come.


In this carefully crafted poem, a delicate tension exists between the past and present, the beginning and end---between a father and son. Between the title---“First Time I Drank With My Father”--- and the heartbreaking closure (“the last/ of your sons to come), the poet delivers with skill and restraint the details of a life lived to the full (“sailed,” “jostled”) and its debilitation with aging (“orderlies” and “soiled linen”). --Kathleen Hellen

  • November 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Rapture
      by JJ Wiliamson
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      Second Place (tie)

      Red Spider Lilies
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place (tie)

      The Big House At Mambalam
      by Siva Ramanathan
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      Third Place (tie)

      What Have I Done to Thee O Muse
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      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place (tie)

      World Affairs
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
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      Honorable Mention

      Morning
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      Honorable Mention

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      by Daniel J. Flore III
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  • October 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      We Could Use an American
      by Mignon Ariel King
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      Second Place

      Dante’s Outer Circles
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Time of Move
      by RC James
      Babilu