Winning Poems for March 2017

Judged by Sara Clancy

First Place

Mountain Church Larrau

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review

I cried to think of a savage cynical fate which had made it
impossible for my love ever to be used by you.
Dora Carrington

You wanted me to make it come out differently.
The chambers of a nautilus shell with its shady pink
spirals was as close I could get to painting light

as it came through the bleak church windows.
You told me my perspective was flawed. My strokes
were a dull parade of color but somehow I’d lost

the skill. I couldn’t capture September yellow.
I couldn’t be compared to the madman of Arles. The artist
lived inside sunflowers and could carve chasms into paint.

Watcher-crows bored holes into his heart. His brother’s
letters whispered ‘not good enough’, the way you do with me.
As consolation I deny myself memory. Soon you’ll forget

the boy with the purple birthmark, the leaf that spreads
across his face like the slap of a hand. I ask you
to explain the bitterness you say I cannot understand.

The painter waits on a stone step in a tattered white shirt.
The yellow dust of his house circles his throat
like a gold chain. Birds litter the stubble in their black mourning

coats. I think he wanted to stir himself into something else,
the purest blend of pigment. I want my scars to fall like seeds
into a field, to grow into sunflowers, to make you, Crow, healed.

What is arresting about this work to me is that it delivers an intimate and persuasive portrait of the painter as well as the painting, using her extraordinary quotation as a jumping off point. Then a perfect opening line, which must forge an instant connection with anyone who creates, “You wanted me to make it come out differently.”

The reader gets such a visual picture of the artist’s sadness throughout the poem, too. I particularly loved “The yellow dust of his house circles his throat/ like a gold chain” and “As consolation I deny myself memory. Soon you’ll forget /the boy with the purple birthmark, the leaf that spreads/across his face like the slap of a hand.”

Such a beautiful and ambitious ekphrastic poem. --Sara Clancy

Second Place

It’s a Wonderful Life Brandon

by Sergio Ortiz
The Waters

It’s a Wonderful Life Brandon
Larry Fobes King “Leticia”
January 13, 1993 – February 13, 2008

What’s up, baby?
It was the step that haunted,
the cold predatory act, the final step,
shards of the glass.

I filled the rooms of this school
with the scent of ghosts,
built the classroom out of Leticia’s sighs,
colored the halls with Larry’s anguish.

In school I wore a uniform
made from screams, like a window
between the cracks of air, or a leak
on its way down the steps of obsession.

“Baby,” the blaze of going to bits,
of keeping guilt and loss at bay,
of two shots in the back of Leticia’s head
the only solution.

The prosecuting attorney
walked through una hojarasca
on the way to her table. Her hair
full of dead, wet leaves. Hallway clatter
declared her ten pounds’ thinner.
The jury, untangling Brandon
and Leticia’s What’s up, baby?
The defense begged jurors leave
their conscience in the hallway,
and it worked.

Difficult to write a poem about a subject like this and not scream at the reader. Difficult to read a poem like this and not just scream. Lines like “I filled the rooms of this school/with the scent of ghosts” and “The prosecuting attorney /walked through una hojarasca/on the way to her table. Her hair/full of dead, wet leaves.” will haunt me. Disturbing, sad and superbly written. --Sara Clancy

Third Place

The Quiet Work

by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum

A steady thrum, as though a buzz saw
Had acquired precise intelligence
Whirls through the air. There is law
And law. And there is national defense.

There is a teething baby, gumming
Real food for the first time , cries.
There’s a time bomb humming, humming
Behind the lashes of lonely eyes.

Meanwhile in that web of lies we call
Reality, the quiet work proceeds.
For better, worse, the sum of all,
The day to day, with all its needs.

The weeds, the rusting shopping cart,
Broken pen knife, clamshell Burger King,
The bleeding sparrow’s beating heart,
Of these, and only these, I sing.

I love the music in this poem, the rhymes and the slant rhymes. I’m also impressed by how the rhymes at the end of the lines disappear into the rhythm, precision and intelligence of the rest of the words. The poem is interesting and a pleasure to read all the way through, but that last stanza is a stand out! --Sara Clancy

Honorable Mention

This is How Death Comes

by Laura Ring
Wild Poetry Forum

Gleaming and unapologetic in crisp fluorescence.
Flanked by a shrewdness of suits and toothsome smiles.
It comes in a cavalcade of paper, weighty pen
in a crabbed fist. In signatures terse and mean
and slanting far to the right.

It comes in legalese dressed up as reason.
It comes as a huckster with a bargain. Regrettable
necessity. A show of strength.

It slots its victims into spreadsheets
like folded chairs on a flatbed en route
to a grand fete. It’s all numbers and columns.
Capacity. Concern for security. This is how

Death comes, but it is not your death –-
it is the outstretched hand we snuff
our cigarettes out in; the boat turned
away from the harbor as the waves rise.

It comes with a swelled chest and a closed
mind. Makes its bed with the Father of Lies.
It arrives while we are otherwise occupied.
This is how Death comes: It comes with flags

and silence.

  • 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