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May 2003-April 2004
Judged by
Peter Murphy

Poem of the Year
While I Wrote My Dispatch: A Sequence
by Robert Bohm
Submitted by
Melic Review

Second Place
To Go Miles In

by Charles Cornner
Submitted by 
Desert Moon Review

Third Place
Study of Absences
by Letitia Trent
Submitted by
Critical Poet

Judges Comments and Winning Poems

Poem of the Year
While I Wrote My Dispatch: A Sequence

1. “While I Wrote My Dispatch: A Sequence” is a remarkable series of meditations that envelop the reader in sentiment without becoming sentimental. These short segments, narrated by a correspondent who has witnessed terrible things, rise from the “Front” at the back of a mind entangled with regret and beauty. They do not report in a traditional journalistic sense, instead they give rise to metaphor that is both cinematic and nostalgic.
                                                          - Peter Murphy

While I Wrote My Dispatch: A Sequence
by Robert Bohm


One Leg of a Return 
for Janice Kijenski 

As I leave: the old moment’s cathedrals, 
rubble beneath 
a blue sky’s supposed perfection. What 

was Krakow’s sorrow like, when 
it still knew sorrow existed? And should it 
matter to us, who haven’t ever 
lived here? Like someone 

digging clam flesh from the shell 
with a little fork, something’s pulled 
from your belly. The soul? In 

another location a maple leaf flutters 
into the distance, a disconnected thought 
on the American asylum’s grounds 
toward which the cops drive 

the ostentatious rebel, 1964. Months later 
while you play the piano 
he hasn’t heard yet, the asylum’s flowerbed 
of withered tulips mocks him, hiding 
boy-like in the nurse’s shadow 

while the world closes in 
around him. Eventually he leaves the place 
forever. That of course 

was then and this is now. The silence 
still converses 
with itself – yesterday 

in Srinagar in Kashmir, today 
here, tomorrow near Brush Run. Moments from one zone 

or another: a child’s legos with which I build 
a history of mornings 
just for you. They 

are what I am. Feel 

the light. Gentle 
as your husband’s breath 
upon your neck, day 


Fall Outing 

The swan’s soaked belly, a secret, rises 
from the pond in a chaos 
of beating wings 
deaf Ephram doesn’t hear. Trees, throwing 

flakes of burning ash 
into the air, die 
as he watches. When I walk him home 

to Janice’s, we pass the old papermill, one wall 
a pile of rubble. The chill wind blows 
harshly along the rowhouses. Ears 

reddened by silence, his head aches. 


Beyond Brush Run 

Near the civil war cemetery, apples 
rot in an orchard 
not far from where doe and fawn bound 

through cold rain into 
the underbrush, hides soaked 

with the impalpable. Having lost track 
of Katherine and not knowing how many years ago 
she died, I look 
through the broken window at a corner 
in which I once passed out, drunk. When 

I came to, she asked 
“Do you understand now?” 
while spaghetti boiled in the kitchen 
at the dirt road’s end where my father 

would one day stand 
in the doorway, hat 
in hand, awed by the old woman 
telling stories about the storm-swollen Arno 
as the rain 

then as on so many other days and now 
beat roof and walls, drumming 
but not loudly enough to drown out 

the fox with fractured leg yelping 
in the steel trap 
in the silence between two words. Only today 
do I finally understand the drenched soil’s 
smell, as the earthworm’s bristles 

penetrate bright dark. In another place 
where she once showed me a dead swan 
coated with oil, I sat 

on a flat roof in my soldier’s uniform 
and talked with her at dusk. That 

was the year DeGaulle almost fell 
from power and Brown’s leg was blown up 
in a paddy north of a mangrove swamp 

where the water’s silence 
like a stranger’s held breath at the border 
of a small town at night 
was louder than the unknown’s prelude played on the piano 

by Katherine’s friend’s daughter in a parlor 
years later. The rain 
froze that evening as she played, then turned 

to snow, which by morning 
was knee-deep 
anywhere you walked. 


Dusk Mist Years Ago 

Where the branch juts out from the maple trunk, 
it disappears into mist. 

The ducks on the pond, noise 
minus bodies. 

Even I, walking here, am only 
an absence’s motion, to anyone 
more than a foot away. 

Still, I thumbtack a message 
for Katherine on the gatepost 
of the horses’ grazing field. 
What will it mean to her? She doesn’t know yet 
that I’ve returned. Or from where. 

In all respects, I’m the mother 
words desire, except 
I abandon them when they’re born. 

Years later, their crying haunts me. 

Tonight I listen to ducks that aren’t there. 

You whispered once, “Tell me who you are.” 
I answered, “I’m the message that I leave.” 

Mist touches stone. 

That sound 
is me. 


Connelly, 1973 

In the rain in the meadow 
east of Katherine's house 
the wind pummels aster stems. 

Leaves matted on his boots 
he trudges through soaked grass 
down the slope. 

Where the trail 
cuts through the woods at dusk 
he disappears. 

Later, the wind dies down. 
The rain stops. 
No stars tonight. Or moon. 


Miles from Indian Caverns 

Under the fern, 
tomorrow’s absence. A raven’s 

feather, like 
the possible, lies on the path. Time: fat 

with undergrowth 
and burrs stuck 

to fur. From this 
I reconstruct 

the wolf’s warm breath, 
paw prints in snow. The mind, owning 

no bow or gun, follows. Later 
with one quick move, a flash 

of animal fury, it kills its prey 
with its teeth. Wind hisses 

over creek rocks and through 
dead weedstalks. Hearing 

the unclear clearly, I find 
beyond the thicket 

a shack, falling apart, snow 
on the floorboards, and sit 

on a dented bucket, already 
hungry for another meal. 


Wednesday Night 

As part of the return, I fed 
the stallion an apple in the stable. 
More than haysmell brought me there, brushing 
my cheek against its mane. 

Listening to the sound from the east meadow 
of mist touching pond, I remembered 
Srinagar, nothing else. A building burned 
while a woman scratched for food in a stony place. 

Thick as afterbirth, animal slobber dripped 
from my hand. Later, the noise of ducks 
flapping wings. No, that was different: 
a year ago, one morning. I awoke. You weren’t there. 

But she was. The woman grubbed for edibles 
in the dirt inside my head. Behind her, an explosion 
rocked the city. I could have saved her 
but while I wrote my dispatch, she disappeared. 



Where my fingers 
end, the air 
says nothing. An absence 

of paradox begins. Oak 
bark’s rough feel. Leaves rot 
among broken 

field stalks. Prophecy 
is like this: a simplicity 
so simple it’s 

complex. Old Connelly, 
name carved here in stone, 
decayed long ago, but now 

his rot rots also. A cold front 
comes in. The wind 
shrieks along Smith Mill Trail. What 

clarity. The pond 
turns to ice, the night 
is nice. 

Second Place
To Go Miles In

2. “To Go Miles In” is a poem which takes us into the choky air of a coal mine where the narrator is aware that the work he does is killing him. Even the light he needs to survive fails to provide. -Peter Murphy

To Go Miles In
by Charles Cornner

There is fortunate air tonight. Not a hint
of choking gas; canaries sing
that truth. Earth rumbles the vein,
creaks the locust poles that stand

between us and the world.
We cough black dust and prophesy.
Helmet lamps dim our sight
and narrow our view. At dark day's end,

the squeaking elevator lifts us to the night,
to dump our pickax and shovel in a box,
and walk to the company town to close
our eyes to still more black.

Third Place
Study of Absences

3. “Study of Absences” is an understated sequence of three sections which tries to describe the stain of what is no longer there. “I admit, you bent my bones into new angles,” broke my heart, wholly.
                                                                  -Peter Murphy

Study of Absences
by Letitia Trent


The burglars slit open Christmas gifts,
impatient as children. Appliances were ripped
from the walls so hastily cords trailed
from sockets with their wiry guts
frayed out, plastic skins burst.

I inspect the squares of grime where things once stood,
the bugs and dust are collected like shadows
cut loose from their substance.


I hear my feet slapping solo
on the cold linoleum. Coffee settles in the press. I can't drink
it without you, the effort echoes old paths of movement; coffee
to table to kitchen, hands from cutlery to your forehead,
to your slick hairline, to your sticky eyelids. My body
must learn new directions, break the old
deference your absence renders unnecessary.
I set a glass of milk down, and though alone,
cross my ankles at the knee.

I admit, you bent my bones into new angles,
and I cannot stand to break
the bad knits
and take the itch
of the body stitching
them straight again.


As you walk away I watch you receding,
watch the dark nestle deep in your ribs and the dips
in your shoulders, watch it clamber over your back
and swathe your flesh like a sweater. Now
you are lost in the dark of distance.

All little movements echo the big ones.
Time is the shadow clawing up your ribcage,
it is static that blooms between us.


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