Winning Poems for February 2020

Judged by R.T. Castleberry

First Place

My Beautiful Body

by Mary MacGowan
The Waters

My beautiful body, I’m so sorry.
You were starved, befriended wrong
people, ate badly, drank too much.
And for petty thoughts I am
ashamed. Who’s fatskinnydumb-
smart. On the way down
does everyone feel the same
regardless of why the fall –
pushed, accidental, suicide?
And what to knit with all my spare
time? Yards & skeins of it.
A sweater, maybe a scarf.
Stop. You’re making me laugh.
I bought myself flowers,
gave blood. Today ran away
with me. I’m late.

Blunt and fearless but also well-crafted, with a tight meter and an economical use of tough language. --R.T. Castleberry

Second Place


by Allen M. Weber
The Waters

In the sudden night before the storm, a banditry foraged
beneath a ceiling of marbled clouds—a sky that has you
take stock of your losses. We sorted through a box of letters
and photographs, considering the history of each.

Oak popped and whined in the stove. My wife paused,
solemn with a picture—my brother, on his final visit. In fading
color, black cap awry, he’s still hand-in-hand with our sons,
racing headlong to somewhere beyond the focus of a lens.

How quickly snow covers the seeds that towhees scatter
to the ground. I went outside to fill the feeder. A windfall
chickadee, deceived by the light from our kitchen, fluttered
against the window, until, worn out, he let himself fall.

I pressed my finger to his breast. He hopped on, tilted
his black-capped head, and fluffed against the cold.
Weary one, the darkness bewilders us all. I’ll shelter you
in the holly hedge; by now an owl is watching from the barn.

With the final two stanzas, the poet performs a neat twist, taking the work from the well-observed if sentimental to somewhere healing--and vaguely threatening. --R.T. Castleberry

Third Place


by Peter Halpin
Wild Poetry Forum

We would take the shortcut across the fields
and through the ash plantation, kicking
up fallen dried leaves or scrambling
down rocky slopes, him holding my hand
or my shirt collar if I got to far ahead. Not
much of a talker, only speaking to offer warning
or encouragement. I’d be shoulders slung
over creeks and rail lines. This was my only time
with him. I talked as little as him, cast a glance
now and then when in doubt or a grunt if my nerve
exceeded my ability as I basked in his shadow.
When he died, he lay twig-like on the bed,
cancer had eaten him to death and left
nothing for us to bury, except a box
of dried bones. After, I used to visit
him and lie leaf-like on his grave, hoisted
on his shoulders through the ash plantation
as low hanging branches combed my head.

A tramp through the woods with a taciturn father and a devotedly mimicking son. --R.T. Castleberry

Honorable Mention

Only the Good Things

by Paul A. Freeman
The Write Idea

Today, only the good things, Dad.

I read a eulogy to the mourners, a potted history of Brian,
and afterwards you re-joined Doreen.
I found the elusive wedding ring that had slipped off your fleshless finger
and relieved your distress.
I cooked Christmas dinner with you, slowly, in the kitchen,
and we drank a glass of wine together.

We ate French fries and downed a pint on Yarmouth pier
and the seagulls snatched at the chips.
We watched meteors streaming through the night sky
and the frigid air chased us indoors.
We stood side by side, metal detecting on a sunny village green
and unearthed a young Queen Victoria.
We queued outside the British Museum, got a bag of roasted chestnuts
and saw the mask of Tutankhamen.

You bought me a Johnny Seven gun, the Christmas must-have toy,
and I fired plastic grenades into the garden.
You held me up before the camera, smiled at your son in the falling snow,
and the harshest of winters was forgotten.

Today, only the good things, Dad.

A lovely collection of Ray Davies-like details. --R.T. Castleberry