Winning Poems for June 2022

Judged by R.T. Castleberry

First Place

The Purposes of Alone

by John Riley
The Waters

All necessary lives are gathered
in the distance
then dispersed
to circle
and to be available wherever I look
the way the sounds forest animals make
do not come from a single point
but envelop from everywhere.

There will be no more flights across the fields
flitting from pine to pine.
No tree will hold me tight.
No one is to join me when I dance.

From the opening lines: “All necessary lives are gathered/in the distance/then dispersed,” the writer delineates the sorrowful ways quarantine has separated communities. And the final line: “No one is to join me when I dance,” how illness separates us from even that community. It’s a haunting piece of writing. --R.T. Castleberry

Second Place


by Midnight Moon
Wild Poetry Forum

Do not think I am strange,
she says, as her eyes swerve
like whisky in a glass
toward the sky

You don’t see
the howling moon,
freight train tracks,
black clouds racing the sky

You don’t see
hoboes sitting cross legged
so the jerking train
does not knock them flat

You don’t see the swamplands
passing by, with broken cat tails
and birds careening so slow
you almost fly outside, too

It is me, I am the deviant
I am the one who never learned how to write
the one whose railroad grease
makes dark, kohl lines around her sparkly black eyes

The urge to go, to move and travel while being restricted by pandemic closings is evident in the middle verses repetition of, “You don’t see/the howling moon; You don’t see/hoboes sitting cross legged; You don’t see the swamplands/ passing by…” While the beginning and final lines: “Do not think I am strange; It is me, I am the deviant,” highlight how isolation has caused us to drift from all connection. --R.T. Castleberry

Third Place

As I Slide

by Meena
The Waters

The punctuality, the discipline,
the dress code I am noted for
have abandoned me in a quick
as I walk like a recluse governed
neither by time nor by appearance,
a trace of hippyism.

My gray hair flying in all directions
as I at least try to colour it.
Excess starch in my saree
makes me look roundish
converting me shorter than
I am in real life.

A slightly imbalanced walk,
a drag and a pull, has grown
significantly prominent
as I negotiate climbing
up and down the stairs
leaving me graceless.

I prefer to be at home
watching programs
on YouTube, serials
which promise nothing
except some light thinking,
a recent habit.

Life hitherto would go likewise
I assume. Bidding adieu
to serious thoughts
and sensible living style
I gradually slip into a noncohesive
status which forebodes the end.
That of living,

The randomness of Covid’s attack has preyed on people’s sense of mortality, affecting every manner of personal routine. As I Slide underlines these stresses, as the opening lines set us up: “The punctuality, the discipline/The dress code I am noted for/have abandoned me…In a later verse, the writer references “A slightly imbalanced walk/a drag and pull…leaving me graceless.” Illness and isolation eventually leaves them in deepest resignation, “I gradually slip into a noncohesive/status which forebodes the end.” It’s a powerful but starkly unsettling work. --R.T. Castleberry