Poem of the Decade:
May 2010-Apr 2020

Judged by Juan Felipe Herrera

When reading and analyzing the poem of the decade entries, Mr. Herrera had this to say:

These poems were all excellent. Revealing. Personal and daring. Reality stepped into these poems, most key.”

Below are his choices for special recognition.


Caught In The Light Bucket

by Brenda Levy Tate
June 2017

SM0313 – age 13.6 billion years

When this beam first began, God may have slept
between the newest universe and the last. We give
a holy name to him; we credit his hands. The Sistine
finger tempts us with fires from no fires; lands
from no lands; suns wheeling backward
unsparked, to edges where nothing matters,
where matter is nothing.

All dross has vapoured away – time’s scintillae,
just like mine. Water and air now. I release gravity
from my arms; the scope sings, deep as rubbed glass.
We both listen to harmonics of the plasmic jar
while night brushes against us: its alto hum,
shushing around the observatory. Sky’s voice.
Then quiet.

I cant the reflector barrel, apply an eye,
as this oldest star in the cosmos waggles
its corona within my Milky Way – scooped up,
a spaceborn orphan that has since outlived every
possible parent it might have claimed.
I have drawn it now, too, from the rift between
where it started and where it needs to go.


Poetry in the Cultural Revolution

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters
December 2018

Soldiers stormed in, ripping doors
and cabinets open like wounds.
I clung to mother’s leg

as they pried up planks
for signs of treachery: books.
Hadn’t neighbors seen shelves of poetry

stacked from floor to ceiling?
Where were they?
Father was dragged away

as neighbors watched,
covering their ears, hurrying off
when Mother tried to speak to them.

There were rumors that Father
played piano in his youth, booming out
anti-revolutionary songs.

His list of treacheries grew: the name
of Li Po rolling like a grenade
into our house one morning.

Mother disappeared. Hadn’t she led
children in singing poems? Wasn’t poetry
as dangerous as temples?

I joined a stage group, where I drew
my biggest applause denouncing
my parents as counter revolutionaries,

citing how my father wrote poems
the way a traitor makes bombs—
at night, alone.

Honorable Mention

hospice nurse

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block
December 2014

up late
the dying have paperwork
i must complete

it says nothing
about their living

i want to be up early
not miss the blood moon
the total eclipse
in the first hours of morning

dreams are about to say
something i won’t remember

a shadow
over my mind
will disappear

i’ll know
a good thing happened
without a trace

Honorable Mention

Still Life with Oranges (II)

by Lisa Megraw
Wild Poetry Forum
November 2016

- After Matisse

i. natural light

When your labour of wet brushes
places an oxblood curtain
next to an olive pitcher

long after ghosts have abandoned
the grey fog of your morning,
your chest feels hollow enough

to wake the starlings in your wrists
and bow your head to work
over a wall fringed with afternoon’s ochre,

where light reflects off bone china
and the shadows that have gathered
their own field of blue irises

cradle the light of oranges.

ii. inverted image

When the cracking of paint
moves a turquoise window
further from a mauve pitcher

days before summer’s cerise blossoms
open with the certainty of new birth,
your head feels full enough

to stare into the night’s cerulean,
watch midnight collect
in curved china

and twilight scatter small
orange flowers
that collapse beneath

the insurmountable distance of blue.

Honorable Mention

Yard Work

by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum
April 2012

The shed is orderly, all muted shades,
and there within I am a glimmer.
The air smells of cedar and rust.
I find shears in a coffee can,
wrapped in flannel, blades ready
still to whisper in polished sighs.
In this beautiful solitude, I cut the sapphire

threads stitched on me, cipher
of disregard, a pilfered incantation.
The pure laziness of affection
staggers me, as if it were a bundle
of broken branches thrust at me.
Now I hope for a late frost to dull the glass,
clouds to tether the sky, a night cold

enough to sleep a silvery sleep.
But the year has lost its keen edge
and by mid-day it is too warm
to weave into this poem. I am hungry
for some faith, a curtain of radiant light
to shield me, but there are flowers
instead. A confection of blushing buds

trembles against the cloudbank.
Listen, I exaggerate. The days are sweet,
laden with splendid little sufferings.
I feel like a saint until nightfall when sin
nips my heels. I hate this weather though,
the frail cusp of spring, all tender and bright.
It reminds me of everything that ever died.

Honorable Mention

The Woman Who Grew up in My House Finds Me on Facebook and Comes to Take a Look Around

by Antonia Clark
The Waters
January 2019

It seemed I’d always known her, deep in the bone,
a long-lost cousin, sister, friend of my youth—
though we had never met, and never spoken.
Yet there she was at the door, apologetic, tearful,

a vase of peach roses, a scarf like mine. Like me,
Like me, the thought unbidden, my arms around her.
For her, time suddenly collapsing to the morning
she left here 50 years ago on her wedding day.

She moved tentatively from room to room, as if
testing her footing, like a child in the dark. How small
these rooms now, how memory had expanded them
to hold all of childhood’s wonder, drama, dreams.

Her father had built this square and sturdy house,
then married and raised seven children, counting
the oldest who drowned in the lake. We marveled
at what had changed, what stayed the same.

At every doorway, every corner, she could see
backward in time, the past shimmering with clarity—
Here the wood stove (see how the floor’s patched in?),
there the ice box, the winter boot-bin, father’s chair.

In this corner, a sewing machine, against that wall
an iron cookstove. The old ceiling’s been covered
with molded tin, floors with ceramic tile, the bathroom
once shared by ten tripled in size to accommodate two.

Her bedroom, with its attic door that once held
monsters at bay, now my small library. She stood
stunned or maybe stalling for time, reading the titles
of my books, neither of us wanting the hour to end.

Then she was taking a last look, everything both
old and new to each of us. And then we were parting.
A wind had come up. Leaves swirled at the open
door, where we hesitated, shivering, eyes smarting.

Honorable Mention

The Lost Daughter

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
March 2012

I have three daughters. They say I snatched them
from the earth. But the first appeared in a sugar cube I left

on the window one night after the snow-moon was round.
The second I grew from a seed in a brown porcelain cup.

The last came through my belly after I left on a train.
Everything I wanted I kept finding. Others lose a country,

a lover, a key to make things start. I lost my tongue
and the moon. I had to buy back my loss with keening.

I left their dream-music buttoned-up safe on their pillows.
When I knocked on the door of Patience, there was no reply.

I lost the word that contains all the syllables for mother,
for daughter. My mothers-heart knows the salt and sand

of her as she makes herself known to me. When I read
bedtime stories to them, we were afraid of wolves, afraid of lies.

These woods are full of them large or small, slow or stealthy,
they yip and dance before me skirting the fire while braving

the cold. How strong these lies must be to make them
so bold. I know which sleep-songs I shall never toss away.

I am like the stranger at the rail of a ferry. I search for the last
wave of a hand, the names I knew in a dark, sleeping land.

Honorable Mention - Runner Up

A Brief History of Blood

by Teresa White
Wild Poetry Forum
October 2016

Blood on the marriage sheets
for the village to examine.

Blood seeping into the white pad
the beef lies in.

Blood in the birth chamber,
the stainless steel stirrups.

The blood of our fathers
christening a bayonet.

Blood in running water
a nick at a time.

Blood spun in a centrifuge,
blue blood in the vein.

Blood red roses in a long box,
a ring, a kiss, a wedding dress.

Honorable Mention - Runner Up

Motown Layover

by E. Russell Smith
The Write Idea
April 2011

Three time zones east of yesterday,
still I rise early. A pale moon fails.
I find a coffee, walk the vacant streets.
The horizon of an ailing city
rises out of ashes, dark against
a glowing sky of blood and roses.

A carrion crow relieves the owl of
its night watch of my wakeful hours.
High-spirited Sunday sparrows,
starlings, larks and winter finches
forage in the gutters; no other life.

This cruel cold may cauterize
two years of weeping lesions.
I fly before the dirty weather strikes.