Winning Poems for April 2011

Judged by Judith Fitzgerald

First Place

Motown Layover

by E. Russell Smith
The Write Idea

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.

Moving, deeply disconcerting, gorgeously clean in its poetic "devices," "Motown Layover" simply causes time to stand still for one glorious nano-second, that space before the onslaught of dirty weather's cloudstorms gathering at the edge of the other's consciousness. Rarely do readers fail to cringe when reaching the end of the line only to discover the poet damned-near destroys credibility when concluding same a preposition with (apologies, Mr. Safire). This poem, however, turns that proposition on its head, expanding, contracting, the quietly calculous crunch realised in the final word, "strikes," the one which brings readers back to the beginning, to the stunning opening line, "Three time zones east of yesterday." Strike a cloud? Wonderful. --Judith Fitzgerald

Second Place


by Yolanda Calderon-Horn
The Writers Block

I roamed like a leaf between your limitations
and mine until the day after you were discharged.
Peter drove you to my workplace; you stepped
out of the van with a smile I later added to my
collection of favorite accessories. The sun

was a welcome sign on your slender face.
Hospital gowns are for the sick, Papa.
But you in a Cubs t-shirt, painter pants
and leather sandals gave breath to winded
hope. Un abrazo para mi niña.

Your branch thin arms embraced me.
The sandalwood in your aftershave
treaded softly on my cheek. And I
recalled being 19, in my white gown,
wearing remnants of that scent
as you cried: her mother and I do.

Wellness came upon me- a wellness
that could have whispered:
you were under your Papa’s weather,
clouded by his chest pain, sluggish
kidneys and diabetic seesaw.

Saw you, and I stopped roving
from hope fixed to a big assignment.

A refreshing lyric penned by an original thinker, the poem works because the title's compression yields up recognitions moment by moment till "winded hope" expires, replaced by "hope fixed to a big assignment," enlarged by the accessorising sun's enjambment, that unforgettable smile a tattoo of joy in the sorrowing grief. While the ordinary details carry readers inexorably to the poem's kick-in-the-head closer, its contents, telegraphed in that pivotal moment when "wellness" grants the speaker a sort of second sight, from "seesaw" to "saw" (sow to seek). That subtle collocation alone, not to mention the way in which "Papa" recasts lovely touches of the Romantic movement, makes this entry a near-masterpiece along the lines of Wallace Stevens or William Carlos Williams, say. Family. Loss. Faith. The wounded works. --Judith Fitzgerald

Third Place

Advice to Self in Guise of Other

by Fred Longworth
Wild Poetry Forum

Feel your body—
how it speaks to you in words
that are not words,
the way the voice of rushing water
finds the ear of the riverbank,
or a troupe of sycamore leaves
tap-dances against the silence of the woods.
At this very instant,
your thighs are chatting softly
about the contours of a chair.
Your shoulders tighten and release,
as they babble about the argument
you had this afternoon.
And your heel is becoming friends
with that bit of stone that slipped inside
your shoe. Hear the voices one by one,
or draw their tongues together
like the chatter of a mountain trail.
Now, I’ll be quiet, so you can listen.

The title of this keeper says it all: Pronouns, both personal and impersonal, wreak havoc with hacksaw hearts and silenced souls. Beautiful. The craft demonstrated in images both startling and familiar does not occur by accident. Each word in the poem belongs exactly where it lands, softly, before listeners understand they hear the most holy, most eloquent language of all, the music, the measure, the divine alignment of faith against faith, of hope in hope, and breath, not death, not dying, no . . . Rather, stopping to listen, to absorb this blizzard of sense and language in the harmonious chaos of "the chatter of a mountain trail." --Judith Fitzgerald

  • May 2021 Winners

    • First Place

      Sparrows, Starlings
      by Christine Potter
      The Waters

      Second Place

      American Night
      by James Thomas Fletcher
      The Waters

      Third Place

      Town Square
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

  • April 2021 Winners

    • First Place

      What If I Wasn’t Born as Much as I Fell Out
      by Jim Zola
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Sycamore Dreams
      by Terry Ofner
      The Waters

      Third Place

      A Clear Crisp Morning
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum