Poem of the Year:
May 2014-Apr 2015

Judged by Anne Marie Macari

1st Place

What more could I do with wild words?

by Judy Kaber
The Waters
December 2014

                                        Title taken from the poem “Morning”
                                        by Mary Oliver.

In the white shell of morning, I could scramble them in a bowl.
I could take them like pills, oval and still in a plastic bottle.
Throw open the window, let them wing toward town,
skim with eyes riverbound after fish, dart quick in water.
I could sprinkle them like petals at a wedding, toss them
in a bouquet, sing them as a Glory, Hallelujah.
If rain peppers the drive with its blue eyebrows, I can
use them as an umbrella to comfort me. For you,
I could sew them into a Mayan indigo shawl covered
in faceless birds dancing. If I were really lucky, really
responsible, kind, given to the malady of hope, I might
parachute them from planes in the middle east, wrap
them in bread and lay them at the feet of homelessness.
I could use them to tell you the perfect things that sit
in my kitchen. I could use them to tell you that my cat
is dead, buried beneath a stone in my side yard.
I could engrave them on spruce, on pine, my hands
sticky with them. I could lay them in the gravel and watch
them move, black ants of letters, spelling one hundred
impossible things. I could ride them, a lone poet on
a white horse, calling, Hi ho! Hi ho!

I enjoy a poem that is so imaginative--imaginative with depth and humor. Language is everything to us, not just to poets but to human existence, but it takes a poet to make us think about language, its substance, its possibilities. I like too how hints of grief waft into this poem that is really about the joy of words. Imagination alone isn't enough, it can be too easy. Here though the poet tells us about the difficulty of hope, the dead cat, a bottle of pills; the poet balances the complexity of life with the sheer life-force of words, "wild words." --Anne Marie Macari

2nd Place

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

This is an understated poem that mysteriously leaves huge space for the emptiness of death. There is so much this speaker wants out of life, and yet her/his everyday life as a hospice nurse is based on loss and disappearance. How subtle this poem is, brief and over before we know it, and in that way it enacts the brevity of life and the things we "won't remember." --Anne Marie Macari

3rd Place

Letter to a Friend Long Dead

by Marty Bradley
Wild Poetry Forum
July 2014

I ride the Walt Whitman into Camden,
guided by refineries’ methane flares,
brake lights bombarding my eyes, car horns unholy.
Jesus Christ would use his turn signal
every fucking time, even when no one’s watching.
It’s hard for me to imagine an event
without witness.

I would be without you either way, watching or not,
alone to possess this aging suit of skin and hair
and all the rest-black t-shirt pulled tight, diamond glinting.
I don’t know if I should venture out for weed
tonight, as thoughts of your pin-cushion belly
thicken my blood to a trickle, and the monotonous
calculation of half-life takes hold.

Seated in the lawn of the Susquehanna Bank Center,
I flirt with the drunken mother of quadruplets
granted an evening reprieve from her horde of suckling lips,
music provided by a skinny boy called Jason Mraz.
I don’t know how your girls are doing, George–
they have grown up and forgotten all but the myth of you,
but I remember kissing your papery lips goodbye.

I kept coming back to this poem because of its immediacy, its alert eye on the world. I kept rereading the lines: "It's hard for me to imagine an event/ without witness." There is something so true about watching and being watched and yet we hardly ever think of that unless we're alone and going through our days without someone around to notice or watch or talk back to. Are the dead listening? Even after many years? Does a core of grief remain with us? These are the questions this poem evokes in its quiet way. Although it is a poem to someone "long dead" it has an embodied quality in its living language with images like "pin-cushion belly" and "papery lips." --Anne Marie Macari

Honorable Mention

Mama Carving

by Terry Ofner
The Waters
January 2015

Summers she sat out under the willow
carving buddha from a stump—
a wild cherry uprooted in a storm.
She hung a 50-foot extension,
hauled out a record player on days
she wanted to listen while she worked.
Field guide to western bird songs, a 4-LP set.
The Scarlet Tanager: chip-burr! chip-burr!

She oiled the wood when the weather turned cold,
let it rest all winter in the utility room. In spring
the old seer came out of hiding, a surprised smile
blinking in the light. When she started I was nine or ten,
would sit on a branch overhead reading comics
like a passing thought she might ponder then let go.
I had left for college when she wrapped up the chisels
and declared defeat: I’m done. All those seasons.

The trees in the neighborhood grew, thickened.
The abandoned house next door fell in.
They carted it off in a dump truck and let
the yard go to nettles, boxelder, and elm
on its way to some kind of climax. The buddha
wizened under chisel and knife, darkened
as cherry will in the sun. There at the end
she would tip her head and smile:
a passing warbler in a tree somewhere,
out of normal hearing, out of sight.

There are poems that in their strangeness call to me. This poem tells a story that is mysterious and somewhat sad. The mother carving the Buddha throughout much of the speaker's childhood, listening to recordings of bird songs, seems to be in another world. The speaker, it seems, wants entrance to her world and somehow we do too. What is the Buddha doing here, we ask, what is this long task the mother has assigned herself while the world is changing and the house next door falls in on itself? What call does she hear? --Anne Marie Macari