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

  • October 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The Emails Go Unanswered
      by Lois P. Jones
      PenShells

      Second Place

      Hidden Room
      by F.H. Lee
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      The Penitent
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Honorable Mention

      You Can Call Me a Tough Cookie, But It Really Doesn’t Matter
      by Midnight Moon
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • September 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      Let Me End the Way the Dinosaurs Began
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Monotony
      by John Riley
      The Waters

      Third Place

      Astrophotographer
      by Brenda Levy Tate
      PenShells