The Penitent

by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block
Third Place, October 2018
Judged by Jeanette Beebe


Water from the blowhole
falls like a tepid rain.

The great unblinking eye,
the lateral roll,

scissoring of its jaw
and I am his.

Arch of rib and vertebrae,
icthyian cathedral, massive

heart like a hammer,
I can hear blood rush,

the billow of lungs expand
when it rises to the surface.

I trudge the barnacled
tongue to suck gill-slit

elder fish caught
in a sieve of baleen.

Three days in the bowels
of Sheol, I am disgorged

like a coughed up
choke bone, all-foured

in obeisance. I lift my eyes,
set my jaw toward Nineveh.


The word choice in this poem is so rich and full of sensory detail. These flourishes feel fresh: "to suck gill-slit / elder fish" and "a coughed up / choke bone, all-foured." The most satisfying moments are when this spirit of attention plays with sound. Phrases like "lateral roll" and "sieve of baleen", for example, are a delight to imagine and to hear. --Jeanette Beebe

  • August 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Chanticleer
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Last Game of the Season
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      The Fine Print of Rescue
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • July 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Kingsmere
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      June 6
      by Don Schaeffer
      Babilu

      Third Place

      Shakespearean Soliloquy – Boris Johnson
      by Paul A. Freeman
      The Write Idea