Winning Poems for January 2022

Judged by Carol Graser

First Place


by Peter Halpin
Wild Poetry Forum

These are challenging times
with little room to spare
for thoughts of the twelve
days, or auld lang syne.
Covid prognosticators have us
wallowing under the sway
of a new star, as they dabble
in astronomy like county fair seers.
atmospheric rivers pouring down
from the heavens, forest fires scouring
the earth black and human refuge
clogging our seas, there is no news
like bad news as straws pile up
on the camel’s back.
But this morning’s sun glistened
off hoar-frost cherry trees. Deer
from the park wandered in
like an early Christmas parade,
northern flickers aligned along
columnar aspens in a cacophony
of little drummer boys, and I,
humbled by this beauty,
fell to my knees in joy and prayed
to mother earth for forgiveness.

It’s difficult to handle topics like climate change, pollution, Covid etc and I feel like this writer did an admirable job of it. I like how this poem pulls the reader through a flow of issues, of bad news, then takes us to a grounded place of beauty. There’s a nice symmetry between the beginning and end of the poem as well. --Carol Graser

Second Place


by Midnight Moon
Wild Poetry Forum

But for me, Chicago was a place for moon-whispering, where wind, “the hawk”, becomes moon-wind, whistling and making silvery, silky blue shadows on moon cacti. I found a way to escape Chicago.

My Dad was tough, a real Chicagoan. No tiny, pink tenderness-flower escaped his clippers when he pruned life’s garden.
I found a way to escape Chicago.

He taught me to buy sharp, red high heels and strut through the city. I’d make sparks and grind my heels against the pavement, hiding that I was actually invisible. My mind slithered like a young coyote through vegetation on the moon. I found a way to escape Chicago.

My mother, another moon-dweller, stretched out her arms like the circle in the sky. It wasn’t her fault she hated me, and not my fault about my father’s lust. I found a way to escape Chicago.

Loneliness is the thing I’ve learned the most about out west. Back east, you’re tough; You’re mean. But here, the fog from the Pacific ocean mixes with your molecules, making you fog-like, too. I found a way to escape Chicago.

I like the general dreamy, moonscape of this poem and the repetition of the last line of each stanza. The poem is a good mix of telling the story and leaving some mystery. --Carol Graser

Third Place

Training to Be a Star

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

our husky was always sticking her nose
down a hole, as if it was a top hat
turned upside down, hoping to emerge

with a rabbit, an amateur magician
who time after time revealed
a tunnel as an empty sleeve.

Still Amanda never gave up, moving
from hole to hole the way
a performer goes from one

audition to another,
never giving up on a chance
at her big moment.

Today a wild fluttering clapped the air
like a duck flushed out of its reeds…
Amanda staring back happily at us

as if awaiting our reaction,
a live pigeon in her mouth.
No! No! We shouted.

She tilted her head, puzzled
that we stood–shouting
Let go! Let go!

Gently her jaw opened
and in a spluttering
the pigeon burst into the air.

We rushed to embrace her,
throwing our arms around her neck,
stroking her chin.

She gazed up into our eyes,
her light brown eyes moist,
as if she stood at a stage’s footlights,

“Encore! Encore!” drifting
down from the balconies
like a blizzard of feathers.

This poem does a great job of describing a moment. It’s nicely constructed and satisfying. I’m not a huge fan of poems about dogs either, so there was no bias there! --Carol Graser

Honorable Mention

Chewing the Fat

by James Fletcher
The Waters

My dead grandfather and I sip lemonade
under the cottonwood he planted as a fencepost.
His tiny tool shed is there filled
with hard iron implements, hefty with longevity.
I used to sit on that tractor seat
with the pedals that turned the massive stone
grinding wheel he used to sharpen tools.
We both know none of that is still there
but he’s not fazed. I have to do all the talking
for us since he’s dead. He doesn’t mind.
Never was a chatterbox. We both smell the dumplings
grandma’s cooking in the kitchen. Speckles
of blood all over the grass where we sit from
that chicken after cutting his head off.
Grandpa pulls out some ‘baccy and rolls
a cigarette, tosses me the empty pouch. Once
I had a bunch of these. Great for marbles.
Grandma sewed ‘em shut after filling with beans.
Now that he’s dead, grandpa doesn’t worry
about getting caught smoking. She disapproved
most everything except praising Jesus.
He still wears that old sweated hat
and ‘spenders to hold up his loose britches.
He looks comfy, at ease in his lanky frame.
Born under a flag with thirty-eight stars,
died under forty-nine, but he doesn’t talk about
the past. Wish he would. So many questions
I ask but he always uses being dead as an excuse
not to answer. Makes me dig around on my own,
in archives and gravestones and stories uncovered.
“Guess I’d better mosey on back,” he says
rising, heading for the old house, fading with
each step until only this memory remains.
Leaving me holding that draw-string muslin pouch.