Winning Poems for July 2021

Judged by Bruce McRae

First Place

The Three Fates

by Laurie Byro
The Waters

after Dobson

Like a fool with a spool he begged for eternal life. My sister
had been spinning for days, winding and measuring the colors,

opting out of what was fashionable. My other twin threaded
him like a marionette, it was I who would make the final cut.

Just as he shattered into snowflakes, into the headlights
of a car, it was I who got busy deciding. Men are demanding,

do I grant him his final wish? I faltered. He returned to his walk,
snow rising to the sky, reentered his home, his grown children

becoming toddlers. His tears not yet fallen on his cheeks,
his cries of passion not yet given into the wild air. And

as the house emptied and the sky cleared, he was forced
to repeat the journey, over and over, like a thread on a spool

being untangled and rewound. For of the three of us sisters,
I was fated to be the most evil, the most spectacularly horrid.

I enjoyed this poem upon first reading it, and even moreso once I looked into the background story of these three sisters. Daughters of Nyx, each Fate was assigned a different task when apportioning out the lives of we mortals, the narrator, apparently, the sister who cut the cloth her sisters had produced. In a poetry world of vast selves, it's refreshing to see someone give a nod and wink towards anything resembling classicism, while remaining upbeat and still applying a modern sense of humour. --Bruce McRae

Second Place

If I Needed Someone

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

The stylus on my record player sighed.
I Feel Fine filled my room
as I recalled yesterday’s concert,
the Beatles onstage.

A ribbon of blood
stretched to my ankle,
I rushed out of my room,
She’s a Woman blaring behind me.

Mama gasped
seeing my bloody foot.
All afternoon she lectured me
on boys and unwanted babies…

Instead of class the next day
I sneaked off to the public pool
where other girls on the lam
twittered away like wrens by the chain link fence.

A boy was grabbing his knees in mid air
cannon balling into the water—
others strolling by
with the rakish swagger of crows.

I worried the chances of a first kiss
would override caution. And Mama?
Out of nowhere Jeff
suddenly lay down next to me

on the concrete deck
talking about our English teacher,
Mrs. Monroe, with her light down
of a mustache.

My heart drummed in my ears;
I was lightheaded, standing
at the edge of the high dive board
for the first time.

Was this kiss gonna happen?
Jeff’s hand touched mine.
I swayed like water
carried in a bucket.

Any moment I would slosh
over the brim.
If I Needed Someone
throbbed from the speakers.

This sharp poem, with an insight into adolescent womanhood few would attempt or could muster, is a very musical poem, in subject matter, trope and construction. I suppose I found it particularly poignant as I was about the age of the author when the Beatles first strolled into town. Note the metaphor stretched over the last two stanzas as particularly tangy. --Bruce McRae

Third Place

free spirit

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block

that’s what he called me
both of us bouncing in the bed
of an old pickup
the smell of manure
swirling around us

friends for a mile or so

i grinned but didn’t show it
he was young
didn’t know the difference
between a free spirit
and a lost soul

i guess i didn’t either
that was the beauty of it
not knowing

A pithy poem. Short and to the point, without any wasted verbiage. Almost-but-not-quite glib. A few deft lines and we're back in time, reliving a moment gone forever. We're in another place, the shared summers of youth. You can hear the writer's emotional frisson, their upbeat if not a little world-weary sigh. It's tricky eschewing punctuation in writing but this poem accomplishes that easily. --Bruce McRae