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May 2005-April 2006
Judged by
Judy Kronenfeld

Poem of the Year
Over Talmadge Bridge
by Catherine Rogers
Submitted by

Second Place

by Sarah Sloat
Submitted by 
Desert Moon Review

Third Place
by Stephen Bunch
Submitted by

Honorable Mention
On the Day Buk Checked Out

by Steve Reed
Submitted by 

Honorable Mention

by Catherine Rogers
Submitted by

Honorable Mention
The Mandolin

by Laurie Byro
Submitted by 
The Melic Review

Honorable Mention
Last Minute Chore

by Jim Fowler
Submitted by 
The Versifier

Judges Comments and Winning Poems

Poem of the Year
Over Talmadge Bridge

"Over Talmadge Bridge" has an immediacy and a sureness of voice and tone that captured me on first reading, as well as a sonic, rhythmic, kinetic and visual appeal throughout. This writer is largely in control of his or her craft. I appreciate the strong unity of the poem. It begins with the voice of the wind and the implicit temptation to be swept off the bridge by the wind, then considers the gulls that have their own "argument with wind," then instructs the self not to listen to the shout of the air (which I take to be the wind), and ends with those palmettos "nodding their feathery heads/like fools in the wind." I like the way that visual image closes the poem with a very understated suggestion that nature (emblematized by the palmettos) gives the nod to the speaker's survival, but also suggests the faintly comic idea that that "yes" is given by featherheads, themselves moved by wind. I like the way the whole poem is rooted in situation and physical reality. The first half is particularly strong. The image of the "stalled gulls" takes a physical reality of flight and uses it for the poem's purposes in a fine way, and I like the tension in the pun "cross purpose," suggesting both the purpose of crossing the bridge, and that crossing is a purpose that crosses the "urge to fly/into the river." --Judy Kronenfeld

Over Talmadge Bridge
by Catherine Rogers

Clutch the wheel. Resist the urge to fly
into the river--it's not your own;
it comes from the same voice
that riles the whitecaps up.
Pity the stalled gulls that make
no headway in their argument with wind;
but keep to your cross purpose,
the airy road whose white steel wings
are folded over you. Don't look
across the guard rail at the city lights,
the ships lumbering upriver,
still less the darkened marsh
at the edge of the sea. All these
you may come to in time. Tonight,
follow the line that rises for you;
don't think how deep the air above
and below, don't listen when it shouts
in your left ear. When you reach
the Carolina side, you can breathe again
as you pass that stand of tall palmettos
nodding their feathery heads
like fools in the wind.

Second Place

I really like the way "Flight" metaphorizes, in an original way, the experience of going through airport security, in order to speak, quite indirectly, about the desire to give oneself up totally to a new purpose, to escape into some almost mythic realm of fulfilled wishes. I just love lines four and five in the first stanza for their sonority and suggestiveness: "My shapes have never shone like this. / My whole life lights up in vials and doses." I like the wit in the idea of a trapdoor in the soles of the shoes, suggesting a way to get out of one's 'own shoes.' I like a lot of the diction, e.g. "toggling" in l. 3, for its physical appeal, and "lies down with" in l. 7, with its Biblical aura and suggestion of a kingdom come of granted wishes, picked up by "threshold" in l.9. It seemed that the man with the detector was unhinging the speaker, unleashing him from being "grounded." I did have some difficulty with the first two lines of the last stanza, probably because, unlike the other images, the one here seems to depart from the vehicle of the extended metaphor which has, thus far been grounded in the reality of this airport experience. I find difficulty here in accepting the "convex glass" magnifier as a metaphor for looking too close to see an inner reality, because I wonder what it can refer to in a purely realistic sense. I don't have that problem with the purely metaphorical "trapdoor" in the shoes, because, at least I can see the shoes "toggling down the x-ray ramp." Even though I think the security person might well see "the seams of an overloaded suitcase/rip" (another instance where I prefer that meaning not be "merely" metaphorical), I do like the way the poem ends by revealing its theme more openly at the very last, with the word "wishes." I also like the leap in "rent as a lost continent," which I take to mean 'sundered, torn away' from the rest, like a mythical Atlantis, perhaps. --Judy Kronenfeld

by Sarah Sloat
The airport wants my shoes.

At last I see the trapdoor in the soles

toggling down the x-ray ramp.

My shapes have never shone like this.

My whole life lights up in vials and doses.

When I fly, I fly entire and abandoning.

The animal lies down with the mineral *

a leather belt curls around my mints and keys.

At the threshhold, a man draws his detector

down my spine, that hinge, the leash

that grounds me. 

His convex glass magnifies my need, though

he gets too close to see the blue fuse inside.

He'll never leave the earth, never

see the seams of an overloaded suitcase

rip with wishes, rent as a lost continent. 

Third Place

I enjoyed the sensory appeal of "Still." Sound is particularly appealing in lines like "and one lone boulder stood silent, lost/and in the dust and crushed rock of the driveway/chamomile clung to the earth's crust and flowered." I love the way the speaker seems preternaturally aware of everything around him- or herself at this moment of love-making; although his or her lover is moving ("you rolled your hips"); it's as if, in a mysterious way, time has "stopped/moving," has been 'stilled.' Yet, at the same time, because the speaker is so caught up in the moment, what is going on outside seems to have taken place in the past: "the cool/rhythm of a lawn sprinkler down/the road what seemed a season ago." There is that interesting interplay between time moving away into the past and attention to the immediacy of the moment "as current as the unattended jazz/playing from the radio in the next room," which seems to be capped by the final turn of the poem which reveals that this is a memory which is "still" current (as well as, perhaps, that it is a memory of stillness). This is all very subtle and attractive. I did wonder just a little, I guess, about the apparent passivity of the speaker (is that part of the attractions of the moment?), and I was a micrometer perplexed by "unattended [my italics] jazz," since the mere mention in the poem makes that jazz attended to! --Judy Kronenfeld

by Stephen Bunch

Under the moonscape of the bedroom
ceiling you lowered yourself
onto me, brushed my lips with your breast, then
pressed your finger there, whispered,
"Don't wake the baby,"

and outside
in the meadow where the glacier stopped
moving millennia ago
one lone boulder stood silent, lost,
and in the dust and crushed rock of the driveway
chamomile clung to the earth's crust and flowered.

You rolled your hips with the light's
changes from the cumuli and the curtains, with
the reluctant breeze through
the window screen, the cool
rhythm of a lawn sprinkler down
the road what seemed a season ago

but as current as the unattended jazz
playing from the radio in the next room
through closed doors that afternoon
and still. 

Honorable Mention
On the Day Buk Checked Out
by Steve Reed

The day Bukowski died
I was a real working dancer.
But on a stage in low rent strip joint
in the tenderloin was where they found me.
All of the girls and me young enough
so the utter sadness of the place couldn't touch us.
We were like so many romantics
digging for life where real artists went.
In the dark,
before dark could overcome. Soaked in scotch
before it could leave its mark upon our faces.
Where it was unbleached
wild and savory.
We where angles. Full of levity
when such heaviness was passed down to us
from other sad people.
We where just carrying it then.
Not fully absorbing or ingesting it then,
Not living it yet. Just enough poison

to get us through the door.
Just enough innocence to elevate us from the floor.
I was a Bukowski girl, pre-damaged, pre- broken.
And he was dying of leukemia, not liver failure
not lung cancer.

I was 21
In an old and dignified cabaret hall, near the ocean, not the skid row
where streets are lined with donut /Chinese food eateries.
Me on stage, Buk in a hospital bed Dylan visiting Guthrie.
The spot light shone on my back

and i heard the crowd flooding the stage,
ambient and excited chatter. The air only pools smoke,
mold spores from legendary curtains.
Glasses, stars twinkling in the center of it.
I'm drunk too. Forgotten all the expensive choreography.
I belonged to something like surviving a crash.
I was procured, plucked, exploited, juiced.
My pale figure, ribs showing.
The end of a relationship was near.
Buk was almost gone
and ill only ever know him by shelving him,
singing him, recognizing him
from that dangerous place of human suffering,
that mirror, that red glowing exit in the corner.

The music played. I was paid to play
a genuine woman of debauchery.
A genuine lost soul.
But you're never lost
in art.
Your'e never lost in youth.
You've yet to decend in the midst of either.

Just light, and drunk, and spinning.
I moved into whatever needed to come next.
I was a 20th. century term, LIVE.
Just expression,
surrounded by people taking it in for themselves.
Putting their faces on mine, vice versa.
Art becoming the world and
I was moving it around,
just for a moment.
Never analyzing it,
not in this poem.

The wake of our century's Whitman
rocks us. Ripped poetry
from the grasps of academics.
Me and Buk and all my friends,
saved by poems.
Spoken for.

Honorable Mention
by Catherine Rogers

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. . .

Past fifty, and all the rosebuds gathered
that will bloom for me.
Tied in bunches and hung from rafters
to dry, they keep their creamy pink
and delicate perfume. Only the leaves
are brittle, tending to dust.

My back aches as I tend the autumn garden.
A sentinel crow watches from the top
of a lone pine. Now and again he makes
an observation, a throaty "uh-oh,"
like an amiable warning. It is gathering time.

Time to carry home
the last of the flowering year:
For healing, coltsfoot, feverfew and comfrey;
of thyme, (which fair and tender girls
must not let young men steal)
enough to season winter;
here's lovage yet-- but little rue;
sage for longevity, and rosemary,
queen of clear memory, both in abundance.

That sentinel must have croaked all-clear,
for now there are a dozen on the lawn--
a murder of crows, wise eyes and heavy beaks
intent as surgeons, probing the earth. One
turns an eye to me as if to comment,
thinks better of it, rows himself into the trees.
The others follow, but they don't go far.
After I'm gone, they'll be here.

The house is quiet now, my darlings gone,
forgiven for the
ways they tore my body
and my heart. As night wind rises, I'll take down
my mother's book of poems and read aloud
to the accompaniment of rain's steel drums
and autumn's wild bassoons. I'll go to bed
and leave the door unlatched. We'll see
what the October wind blows in.

Honorable Mention
The Mandolin
by Laurie Byro

I tried to tell you about the barbed wire man
and how as a kid I was frightened of that starved
hound of his, the snarl and bite of wire round
the shack that he called home. You never listen
when I am like this. You invent ways to compare me
to a mandolin, your callused fingertips wanting to strum,
to pluck my body like a string. I shake you off.

The wire of my body is being stripped from the inside
out. The lining of my spine heaves with nerves
that are taut and frayed. I tell you I am afraid.
You never believe me. Instead, your nails move back
and forth across the frets of my wrist. You play
chords on my arm, croon "Don't be afraid, hush."

You sink into me on your couch and run me through
the lush green forests of childhood. You rehearse
me on your guitar, eyes half-closed against the bright
summer moon. I study your arms as you play,
mesmerized by the clawed fingers, the rusty
glint of hair. There is a river we cross and we pull one
another along through a crooked wire fence.
We arrive skin on skin and only slightly torn.
The wire man sleeps. We replace him with this.

Honorable Mention
Last Minute Chore
by Jim Fowler

We were embarrassed by what
you wanted to do. You made us
promise, strong hands now weak,
wringing the deed out of us.

We drank, laughed self-consciously
that summer afternoon, hot as the red
peppers you considered fertilizing,
in a mad fit of immortality.

Instead, your ashes, sifted fine
to feel, were nervously placed
and stirred in two gallons of paint.
Bone white that matched no chip.

You on the shed. Two coats cover
the tears of our craziness.


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