BEST OF 2003

BEST OF 2002

BEST OF 2001

BEST OF 2000





Winning Poems from 2001


January 2001
Judge Robert Sward

First Place
Voudoun Tale
by Jim Zola
Melic Roundtable

A man sits down to a table and explodes.
Bits of him float from the ceiling covering
his family like feathers, spicing their food.

In Haitian there are 27 words
for fire and none for snow. The undead walk
through coals and leave no footprints. They work
the cane harvest without pay. It's difficult
to tell who is who in the fields.

I put sugar in my coffee and wait for my heart
to race, ready to confess my sins
to no one. An empty house has no ears.
I write fire on paper 27 times
and feel the heat. My scalp snows my shoulders.
I have wasted my life.

How many times have I attempted to leave?
I sit in my car, listen to Blues For Pablo
hissing somewhere almost beyond the radio's
reach. Once I got as far as New Orleans
where a loony nag on Magazine Street
told me my eyes were not right then asked
for a dollar. I had two.

Three times I think. The rest of the time,
I drift like feathers from the ceiling.
I love a woman I do not know. I write snow,
it turns to fire. I know a woman I do not love.
Footprints and shadows. These are my sins.

This is no tale familiar. This is not
the story of my life. A poet sits
at the table and explodes. There is no
family to notice. Or not notice.
The room slowly fills with silence. With this.

Second Place
Sweet Night Alive
by Warren C. Norwood

It's the tone of the phone. It's the tune of the moon.
It's the fate of date. It's the heat of the beat.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the mode of the road. It's the feel of the wheel.
It's the scope of the hope. It's the bliss of the kiss.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the wail of the gale. It's the snap of the rap.
It's the cant of the chant. It's the flash of the Nash.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the flirt of the skirt. It's the tease of the squeeze.
It's the view of the blue. It's the swell of the bell.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the glide of the ride. It's the slick of the stick.
It's the start of the heart. It's the sound of the pound.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the thrill of the spill. It's the rush of the blush.
It's the sigh of the high. It's the drug of the hug.
It's the drive of the sweet night alive.

It's the drive of the sweet night alive.
It's the drive of the sweet night . . . alive.

Third Place
La Lengua
by Alan Clark
Atlantic Unbound

I'm living out your legend on my tongue
(This is the holy land we're wandering in),
With you tasting like the words that come to me,
This tongue tracking down your softest wheres,
These words tickling my throat. But in your flesh
I know what worship is, this tongue directly
To the salt skin and fathoms of yourself
(Not under water, in a new salt air),
Word complexioned, and as a long earth quake
In which the universe of you is laughing me
To go down and down to make up all the words
That will never equal you, wave and matter
As the story in the language of our dream
Together: Goddesses and Gods of sweat,
Of breasts and hands and lips that only speak
When there's nothing left to say but "Linger"
In the dark place where your thighs are met
By what of me is light enough to find you.

Honorable Mention
A New Year's Second Coming
by Barbara Corners
Atlantic Unbound

I spoke with your mother again.
She said she's having fun, but
She misses you, and your dad.
She knows he found someone new,
Like she always knew he would.

She said it doesn't hurt as bad
As she thought it would.
And doesn't blame him.
Even old men live for sex, she said.

I asked about the weather.
Fine, she said, calm and mild-
Comfortable. Little change.

Not much new, she said.
Death's just another place
To fill with time,
And there's no view, she said,
And there's no wine.

I think she started to cry
When I told her I had to go.

She said to send her love to you,
And that she'd see me soon.

Honorable Mention
Another Season
by Sharron Belson
Atlantic Unbound

Looking back
I can't for the life of me imagine
myself married to him. Yet there
they are, thirty-six
thirty-nine, forty-one
his children. My children.
His lips, my hands, his slow glance
my smart-ass observations. Our
creations to remind us we once loved
not only each other but every moment
of those first years until the day
we woke up startled
blank, and slowly walked
toward different oceans. Sharing little
anymore but the people
we made in another season
when we were so sure
we knew who
we must have been.

Honorable Mention
by Mary Hazen-Stearns

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise."
Paul McCartney & John Lennon - "Blackbird"

In the dream, she sits at a white table. 
She sits in her seat.
She knows it's her seat.
The others have not yet arrived.
The table is set for three.

There are paper plates, white
plastic silverware. In the center
of the table white lilacs wait.
Shasta daisies, one red peony,
its heavy head tips toward her.

She understands this invitation. 
She wants to touch the soft red 
petals. How desirous she is
of its fragrance. She reaches,
plucks a petal, brings it slowly
to her lips. Feels the fragile softness
of its skin, pinches its flesh.
Breathes its bruised aroma.

She places it on her tongue,
red communion. Savors its taste.
She snatches more, shoves them
into her mouth, devours
tender petals. Thick blood
pours from her lips, down her throat,
drenches the table. The plates fill.
Blood pools into the white bowl
of her spoon. Horrified,

her hands tremble, flutter
at her open mouth - nervous white doves. 
Her lungs fill with a scream.
She turns, runs to the open window,
flings herself into white summer.
She slams onto sweet garden sod. 
She jerks, shimmies. She cups the sky
in her eyes, comes to rest at last.

In her hand, blows the breeze.
Over her head, lilacs and daisies 
move into new day. She knows
inside, the others have arrived.
The chairs scrape. 
They eat their fill.
The peonies provide.

Honorable Mention
Black Joy
by Ani Gjika
Atlantic Unbound

Joey ate ants every day,
a disorder he developed
when his mother ran off
sometime in his fourth year.

Joey picked up ants with two fingers,
looked at them first,
then looking straight ahead, thoughtlessly
put them into his mouth.

He always chose the black,
quiet, slow-moving ones,
maybe because they were
quiet and slow like him.

One day, Joey's mother returned
and took Joey o\ut to dinner.
They were sitting quietly at the table,
and when she finally said,

"I've missed you!"
a black sea of ants began crawling
out of Joey's mouth drowning
the space between them.

Honorable Mention
Common Bond
by Erin L. Ives
Wild Poetry

For two years
she's been here,
smiling at me
(a disenchanted daughter) --
and still, she ends up
with salt water sighs
and helpless condolences
just like mine.

She's got that
rock bottom look
and I don't know how
to tell her that she'll
wrestle wishbones
and bargain
with nose-diving needles
that never sleep.

Together, we sit
on the fatherless side of the room,
whispering about identity
while waiting
for one of those palisade moments
to chase away the obvious
with good news.

I know the difference
between spilling sadness
and standing in it,
but I've had two years
to dissect that sentence --
she'll offer an olive branch
when reveries
and resentment
lapse into reality.

Maybe someday
she'll ask me
if anniversaries
chip away at limits
or slice into
sensible tempos,
and I'll try not to swallow
the truth.

Honorable Mention
December Crumbling
by Ian Marlowe
Wild Poetry

December is crumbling
under the wandering eye
of a scurrilous sun,
like dirty snowflakes
we digress into the mundane:

You with those emotions that get
in the way of that and this and I
mumbling condolences for the way
things often go as we spit-trip on
colloquialism while the world

revolves on its complacency
with six billion passengers pondering
the Rorschachian legend on a crease-strewn map
gone through too many fingers,
passed among too many hands --

We are as molecules
humping in the night,
replete in our randomness,
chaotic in our endeavor,
as particular as the drivel
on the lips of a feral god
trying to wipe us clean
with the back of its hairy hand --

And we are back to you and I
with this and that as randomness
goes stiff like the rods and cones
in my wandering eyes.

As always, I will try not to notice
the spittle on your too full lips
and what goes on there as December
crumbles and six billion molecules
find their libidos in the dark.

Honorable Mention
by Brian Long
Melic Roundtable

is all I know of you: 
that you are alone in the fall of evening, 
and the light has come far to touch you, 
that there are numbers circled at your wrist, 
and you are waiting, and the day yawns, 
and the day lengthens in the stretch of your shadow. 

is what you know of me: 
that one sock is blue and one sock is black, 
and the page tabled at my knee has bled 
stains into the furrows of my thumb, 
that the pen at my mouth is bitten and stuttered, 
and I am waiting, and the words tangle, and the words amble, 
and the words are crossed through. 

We are a poem now, you and I 
(and perhaps not this one, 
but another when I am wiser); 
and a symbol; 
a strophe for each of us, 
and one we share together. 

Were you to sing beneath your breath 
there would be ghosts to wander 
the timbre of your voice. 
Best you just go, 

for we are strange to one another, and lost, 
and the dusk has settled, and now the dark. 
You may rise like night and sudden fog; 
you may leave me in the whispers of your limbs, 
for I can no longer see the words 
and there is nothing left to write.

Honorable Mention
Ghost of Myself
by Blake A. Hoena

..."without lights or music,
even the ghost of ourselves
had to break up the party... 
-Billy Collins

I lie in bed reading, and you turn,
steal my right arm, curl around it

as if to keep me captive. My left hand 
now holds the book without free fingers 

to turn its pages. And my eyes skip 
about the poem to where, after the storm, 

the blackout, and everyone has gone to bed, 
the lights come back on and the partygoers' 

ghosts continue without them. I wonder
what my ghost are doing this morning: mowing 

the lawn's ankle-deep grass? washing dishes 
from last night's tuna casserole? or pulling 

our urine-soaked daughter from her crib? 
I put the book down, unable to turn 

its page. You steal the other arm 
and my ghosts continue without me.

Honorable Mention
by Dawn Pendergast
Wild Poetry

She was kneeling,
her small white feet
tucked tenderly 'neath her thighs.

Her hands, summer-blasted,
grabbed up the ground,
green blades poking 'tween
those crazy fingers.

Then she lay it down again
slow slowly, in soft green heaps --
like a fragile corpse -- to rest.

I watched her on a nearby bench,
through a swirl of smoke.
Smiling at my own crazy fingers,
clutching my own grass.

Honorable Mention
My First Baseball
by Michael J. Sottack
The Writer's Block

I trace the seams with my fingers, 
heft the balanced weight in my palm, 
smell the leather; 
scoop an imaginary one-bouncer 
like Rico Petrocelli, 
fire a rope to "Boomer" 
at first base. 

My father chuckles, 
I don't understand his amusement. 
He tosses me my glove 
and picks up a Louisville Slugger, 
nods me to short stop 

The first time Katie fell on the ice 
I told her to get up. 
She couldn't understand 
how I'd submit her 
to such humiliation: "Get up, get up, 
everybody falls while they're learning, 
get up!" 

A peaceful breath of insomnia 
wakes me at 4am, 
the moon settles into the palms. 

From the birch stand, a granite outcrop 
is the immutable centerpiece 
as the green lawn rolls until swallowed 
by a dense skirt of oak and pine. 

The squirrels are braver this year. 
Rocky and Buck are gone. Kody's so slow 
He's content chasing down his stuffed squirrel: 
much easier to catch. 

Another wrinkle in your smile. 
a touch more silver in your hair- 
you look wonderful. . . 

Flowers are important. 
Your garden is lush. 
You take time 
to add water. 
One more wedding 
or funeral. 
The family gathers, raked in 
like scattered leaves, pick up 
conversations where they last ended, 
without pause. 

Grandchildren giggle, clutch fingers, 
their bellies shake with laughter. 
Pictures line the mantel, four generations 
in black and white. 
The clock ticks. 

Angels sing 
and glasses hoist in toast, 
" to the newlyweds", 
six ushers lead him in; 
"he was a fine man", 
and six bearers carry him out. 

An olive rolls 
across the table, bouncing- 
plops motionless 
onto the floor. 

Someone stands, 
his hand raised 
like a conductor's, 
points his wand 
at you, 
commands your melody. . . 

"I'm Sammy Sosa!" 
"Then I'm Mark McGuire!" 
Red dust settles over second base. 
A foul tip rolls to a stop 
between my feet. 
I pick up the grass-stained, 
frayed-seamed ball, 
lob it back 
to the anxious pitcher.

Honorable Mention
by G. P. Eireson
Gandy Creek

I pull to loosen and remove the thin,
black bow knotted above the hollow
of her neck as she goes on about the
structure of relationships based on service;
class delineations really piss her off,

she rails. If I fail to follow, am more
consumed by her fertile than febrile cloud,
by the acrid fog of a woman who
works, hard, she little notices, absorbed
in the intricacies of undressing.

Beneath a narrow poplin fold running
the length of lapels in her shirtwaist,
the buttons of a tuxedo blouse
are small and hard white as ivory'
squared, they must be pinched and pushed through the holes.

A lover of rhetoric in stockinged feet:
"Are the oranges atop the heap more
desirable, or are they simply more
desirable atop the heap?" she polls
and rolls flesh tones down as her mother taught.

Conscious now only of the elation
in proximity, in formal, ritual
procedure, with reverence, in ardor,
I defer opinion, nearly drunken
with lifting her black, frail, pleated, crepe skirt.

Honorable Mention
by Bee Rawlinson
Callahan's Saloon

Windswept beauty 
Timeless eternal place 
Keening screaming seabird spiral 

Bare resting place 
A thousand thousand souls 
Keening screaming seabird spiral 

Eternal place 
Surf scoured tainted beauty 
Keening screaming seabird spiral 

Honorable Mention
by Laurel K. Dodge
The Writer's Block

Buy me a beer, light my cigarette, tell me 
nice girls like me shouldn't; slide your thigh 
against mine, stare at my tits, tell me I look 
like Courtney Love when she was a heroin 
addict. Tell me I smile fierce, that you like 
how I suck on my cig; refer often to your ex, 
the bitch, and the pending divorce. Tell me 
about hunting, how you blew a shot on a doe, 
severed her spinal cord and watched her crawl 
through the snow making sounds you'd never 
heard a deer make before while her fawn followed 
the blood trail mewling. Smile a lot, show off 
your tattoos, pull up your shirt so I can see 
snakes writhe in skulls, the grim reaper grin 
under his hood, and a jack-in-the-box sprung, 
leering like satan. Tell me your Harley's out 
back, invite me for a ride, tell me you don't 
wear a helmet, that you've only got 2 DUI's; 
tell me riding a motorcycle's better than sex, 
legs wrapped around the engine, flying over 
pavement at 95 mph. Stand up, ask: you coming 
or not; don't smirk when I toss back my beer, 
kill my cigarette, lipstick my lips and say yes.

Honorable Mention
The Veteran
by Carole MacRury
Wild Poetry

Walking with shortened steps
he carries his bones with care,
fingers flexing air; his lips
a rictus of concentration.

A fossil gripping fists of rain,
sounding off his aches and pains
he counts cadence; marches
to his last bastion, "The Legion"

and his regimental bottle of ale.
In control, he sips through palsied lips,
then eases to his feet, fortified
for the trip back home.

An old soldier trying to sustain
home rule, he goes AWOL
each afternoon, as nurses turn
their backs in silent salute.

Honorable Mention
Water Bearer
by David Anthony
Gandy Creek and Critical Poet

Each dawn before the sun devoured the shade
and seared the arid land, a potter strode
down to the well along a dusty road
to fill a well-used water jar he'd made.

As he returned one day a stranger said,
"Your jar is fractured. Anyone can see
you waste your time, and labour fruitlessly.
The water spills along the track you tread."

The potter answered, "Though it leaks, it still
provides enough for me, and I would not,
for all its flaws, discard my battered pot.
It has a special purpose to fulfil."

Where he had passed, a radiant display
of flowers rose to greet the breaking day.

February 2001
Judge Robert Sward

First Place
361 Revelations
by Tina Hoffman
The Writer's Block

Israel takes back the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, 
rebuilds the temple, reinstitutes traditional sacrifice.

Outside Mehola Cafe there are torrents. 
He watches those inside eat, drags hard 
on a cigarette. Tossing the butt 
to the ground, he opens the door, 
wears the night rain like a jacket. 

He moves toward a crowded table, 
shouting "All praise to Allah!" 
His voice stuns, booming over thunder, 
he tugs at his belt and explodes. 
Limbs and shards race to hit 
the wall. Three Israelis dead. 

Rev. 9:5, 15 
13 months of preparation coincides with Ramadan, 
8 months before Invasion.

Salama al-Sawarka is content. 
His plants grow well, his greenhouse 
lush and moist and warm 
with the sun's rays -- all praise 
is due Allah as the orbit turns, 
leads this Ummah to the gates 
of His mercy, to the key 
of the mysteries of His nearness. 
Salama fasts, reads Al-Qur`an, 
converses directly with 
the Creator of the Universe 
as the bullet smashes the glass, 
enters his head, meant for 
a nearby military post. 

Rev. 9:15-18 
200 million men and armor invade Israel. 
Jersualem is taken. 
Zion/New Jerusalem is founded, exists for 1260 days.

David's city, sweet Mother 
of our dreams, center 
of our prayers, focus 
of our struggle, you 
are the heart of my people. 
I cannot give away my heart -- 
The Temple Mount is Ours. 

Mother slumps over the steering wheel of her car, 
her white blouse bloodied. Baby is still 
strapped in car seat, no longer smiling. 

On a February day, Caliph Omar entered 
Jerusalem riding on a white camel. 
He was dressed in worn, filthy robes. 
The army that followed him was rough 
and unkempt, but its discipline perfect 
as his posture as he rode straight 
to the Temple Solomon where Mahomet 
ascended to heaven... 

100 thousand lights flicker atop torches 
under the walls of the Old City. 
There are signs in Jerusalem, see them 
borne by Settlers who chant and march 
while running to avoid the rocks 
that clatter and echo on cobblestone. 

Rev. 11:7-10 
Two prophets are dead for 3.5 days. 
They ascend to heaven. Coincidentally, 
there is a great earthquake, earth activity.

Stone-throwing clashes near Nablus. 
Two Palestinians shot dead. 

O al-Haram al-Sharif, holiest of holy, 
al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques, 
I perform prayer-prostrations in 
the assembly of my predecessors 
in the prophetic office of Abraham, Moses, 
Jesus. I pray for peace. 

Meetings between field commanders, 
coordination and updates, 
trilateral security talks 
fail to staunch bloodshed. 
The Envoys go home, 
Palestinians may not return. 

Luke 21:27 
Blessed is he on the 1335th day. 
The earth moves to reunite its continents.

Time is no longer. 
The sun never sets 
the moon never withdraws 
there is a new heaven 
and earth with no sea. 
It is finished. 
There is peace.

Second Place
Saving Grace
by Tina Hoffman
Gandy Creek

Gracie laughs in my '68 Impala, Reo Red
fender skirts, and a Wonder Bar 
plays tunes as I marvel at the sound,
switching the radio off to hear her laugh again.

It started like a whisper,
like a lover's first touch.
She felt tired all the time, smiled less,
it was just a tickle, a cough. 
Later, the wheezing, gasping for breath 
as a swimmer who'd barely made it to shore.

We arrive, park facing the ocean
and unpack, the beach empty, ours.
Tossing picnic crumbs to 
a sky fluttering with gulls,
we dig our toes in the velvet sand,
sun-soaked silhouettes walking on waves.

SCLC, doc said -- errant cells
multiply, invade all parts of the body. 
Survival rate? It varies.
His face frozen. Professional. Cold. 
Couldn't be more than 25, this kid 
telling me Gracie would die.
I wanted to punch him. 
Gracie just stared at the floor.

We watch the twilight wane, holding hands. 
Honey red fades to pink, then purple plum.
We kiss as we watch the sun slip away, 
taste the salty spray that coats 
our lips and skin.

The Treatment was aggressive, no choice
so late in the game. 
Chemotherapy. Radiotherapy.
Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.
Day and night I held her head 
and hand while she filled the bowl.

The night breeze is cool, sends skin tingles.
I lower her gently to the sand, still warm 
from the afternoon sun. I touch her 
hair, undress her like a small child 
while the surf coaxes us on.

The first few months after 
treatments started she'd brush her hair,
long and fine and blond,
it pulled from her scalp in handfuls.
She'd laugh, said she'd sell it
then wept as she tried on her first wig--
looked in the mirror
ripped it off 
threw it to the floor
screaming and boogeying on it.

There is no moon tonight,
the sky cloudless. Gracie takes
my hand, rises slowly.
I brush the sand from her body,
dress her again, watch her wince as I do.

She'd try to button her robe,
fingers trembling and fumbling,
groaning with frustration and pain.
If I tried to help, she'd glare 
and back away, say
"I hate that look in your eyes." 

I want to speak, tell her . . .she shusses,
touches my lips with fingertips to silence me
and turns to face the sea, 
walks away toward the car.

More hospitals. And pain.
Excruciating pain, her brow furrowed
as she rode the never ending waves,
dark circles marked her suffering,
her lack of sleep and her questions
"When am I going to die?"
"Where am I going to die?"

Slipping into the driver's seat, she waits. 
The trunk opens, shuts. I connect
one end of the hose to the exhaust,
snake the other through a window
and roll it up tight, no cracks.
Gas tank full, engine on
the Wonder Bar plays a muted song.
I hear Gracie's laugh again, drifting away 
as I begin the long walk home.

Third Place
The O Henry Cat
by Carolyn K. Gourley
Wild Poetry

My neighbours had an ancient cat --
Aged twenty years, at least --
And though they coaxed her every day,
This independent beast
Would never step inside their door --
No house-cat shame had she --
But took her meals upon their porch;
A true-born cat, and free.

From whence she came, no man can tell;
Her genesis -- mystique.
The neighbours found her as a youth,
Sun-warmed and sound asleep;
Upon their father's grave she'd lain
(Sweet hour of paws repose)
And brought her home to Hamlen St.--
For luck, I would suppose.

They called her "Sniff" and learned to live
According to her ways,
And more than once they shook their heads
And thought they'd rue the day;
For what's the use to keep a cat
Who'd never come inside?
But, she was independent
And they'd have to abide.

And, in her prime, she was a lion
To four-foot, beak and wing.
She stalked and pounced and thrilled to life --
Just listen to her sing!
And though she'd never step inside
Their lowly, human house,
In all the time she graced their lives
They never saw a mouse.

Through years of hunts and dawn patrols
And footpad-silent nights,
Of sunny porch and shady bow'r
That were a cat's delight,
She held her own and made her way --
Her cat-soul ne'er was bought --
For, she was independent,
Just in case you had forgot!

Now, cats are territorial
And this one, true to form,
Patrolled the borders of her world
In weathers cold or warm.
Across the street, my auntie lived --
My aunt, who had no cat --
So Sniff decided to make sure
She'd never see a rat!

Two houses, then, became her ward --
She'd rest beneath the porch.
Whenever strangers ventured near,
Her protest she'd send forth.
And, oh, the noise that cat could make,
Her challenge roaring out!
She'd keep my aunt's integrity --
Of that, there was no doubt.

And thus the seamless years slid by
'Til I, at length, came home
To care for Auntie -- in decline;
Too soon, I was alone.
But, no, not quite, for every time
I stepped upon the walk,
The guardian beneath the porch
Let out her fearsome squawk.

I'd smile and shake my head and say,
"Go on -- I live here, now."
And Sniff would sniff, as if to say,
"Behave yourself, or, POW!"
I never yelled or chased her off,
Though pride, betimes, was stung;
For years she'd faithfully kept guard --
She'd earned the weight she swung.

And Sniff was getting on in age --
Her years were plain to see;
Her coat was thick and matted,
And she'd slowed, to some degree.
More often now, upon the porch,
She'd stretch out in the sun
And soak the heat up as she slept --
We seldom saw her run.

A year ago this spring, things changed --
At first, I was perplexed;
For she'd appear upon my porch
And howl in tones quite vexed.
'Til fin'ly I took the hint
And set a dish outside;
Then Sniff would breakfast, quite content,
While I went back inside.

A week of this, and I called Deb
To see if she'd declined
To feed the old cat anymore,
But, no, Sniff, double-dined!
Within a month she went no more
To Deb, across the street;
It seemed that now my porch was where
Sniff chose to take her meat.

We laughed about it, Deb and I,
And 'cause I'm life-long poor,
Deb bought the cat food I'd serve up
When Sniff came to my door.
And through the summer days it went,
And still, when autumn came,
I served this ragged, scruffy cat
That never had been tamed.

And 'twas no easy service, for
When Sniff, to need, gave voice,
Her strident call could shake the walls --
Refusal was no choice,
And in a while it dawned on me --
The reason she was loud --
That years of ear-mite damage
Had reduced this cat, once proud.

If Sniff was looking at you
And she saw her dish in hand,
She'd hasten to receive it,
And she'd think it mighty grand.
But if you were behind her
And she didn't see her host,
She wouldn't know you answered --
She was near-deaf as a post.

'N' we'd often see her stagger,
If she took a sudden step,
For her balance, too, was shattered
By the gunk down in the depths.
I'd have to stomp upon the boards --
She'd feel me shake the porch;
Then, blithely, she would turn around
To see what I'd brought forth.

When winter came, with bitter winds,
For once she seemed inclined
To show some int'rest in the hall
That, from me, stretched behind.
And I thought, if she'd just come in,
To take her bit of sup,
At least while she was eating,
Just for then, she could warm up.

I held the door and showed the dish
And coaxed her to come in,
But she demurred and would not step
Inside my human den.
But when I propped the door ajar
And left her to her pride --
Before I'd reached the kitchen, that
Old cat had come inside.

And sometime after Christmas
(This had gone on, now, for weeks)
More often she would snooze a while
Before the door she'd seek.
And soon it wasn't she who'd howl --
There wasn't any doubt;
She seldom asked to be set free,
'Twas me who'd put her out.

Then, all at once, the light came on,
As daybreak lights the dawn,
'N' the insight came that clued me in
To what was going on.
And I recalled a story that,
I think, O. Henry penned
About an aging hired hand
And how he'd met his end.

The details, I could not recall;
The point was graven deep
and, long a-slumber in my soul,
Awakened from its sleep.
I knew, deep down, that it was thus
Between this cat and I --
This life-long independent
Had come home to me, to die.

This scruffy lump of matted fur
With cloudy, rheumy eye,
This aging unrepentant who
Had never come inside,
This poor infested, wretched scrap
Who'd seen and done it all
Had come to me for refuge
And the hospice of my hall.

Was ever there such compliment
(Though few would recognize),
Such gift of trust and confidence
As shone in this one's eyes?
The trusting quest for simple acts
That cannot be repaid;
A load to bear -- because you're there --
With nothing gained in trade?

Of course, you know the cat moved in;
Her bowls sat in the hall.
She slept in an old reed basket
With a blanket to cover all.
And though she'd never been so trained,
My doubts, aside, were torn,
For she took to the kitty-litter box
As if to the Manor born.

Through winter's term she seldom left
Except on sunny days,
When she would lay her weary bones
To soak up winter rays.
By then, she'd let me pet her, though
'Twas only on her head;
The mat she wore was stiff and hard --
'Twas less alive than dead.

And, Lord, she was the sweetest thing
You'd ever want to know;
And once she gave her heart away,
She quickly let me know --
She'd purr and tried to rub my legs,
Though often she would lurch,
For when she'd brush against her ears,
'Twas plain it really hurt.

So, me, I got the neighbour girl
To come and help me out.
She held the cat -- at full arm's-length --
I worked back from her snout,
And clipped and snipped and did my best
To clear a petting path.
(I hoped, if I could get her shorn,
One day we'd try a bath!)

The day I cleared her, stem to stern --
Three inches wide, the back --
I feared for my composure, for
It very nearly cracked.
I drew my hand from nose to tail
O'er fragile, parchment skin
That long had missed the air and light
Her mat had not let in.

At first, she jumped; then, with a sigh
(I swear I heard it so!)
She arched her back and purred and purred,
And would not let me go.
It had been years since she had
Truly felt the least caress.
She fell asleep upon my lap,
And I knew that I'd been Blessed.

This spring I took her to the vet's
And, yes, it cost me dear;
But at night I'd hear her crying
For her mite-infested ears.
And lately she had suffered much --
A tooth had been abscessed --
And how she'd ever fought it off,
Well, only God could guess.

She took it well and soon forgave
Those gross indignities,
But I knew, by then, that time was short --
'Twas but a brief reprieve.
With summer soon, and warmer days,
She took to going out;
And in, and out, and in again --
She darn near wore me out!

I confess that I turned stubborn,
When the day's last light would fall;
Then I took my turn at being "deaf"
And didn't hear her call.
For the streets about turned busy, and
She was so deaf and slow,
To die in pain and fear and shock,
'Twould be too cruel a blow.

Then June arrived, and balmy nights
Brought scented memories;
And Sniff so wanted to go out
Upon Midsummer's Eve.
The moon was full, her heart was gay --
'Twas purr-fect for a stroll;
I scratched her back and petted her
And then, I let her go.

My mind's eye sees her sniff the air
That fluffs her new-grown fur,
And walks with her along the track
Where feathers fly and fur,
Like downy puffs, explodes in fright --
I hear the squeak arrest.
Then, to a well-belov'ed den
Where, paws tucked to her chest,

She snuggles in some cozy lair
Where she had passed her years --
A little nap, to catch her breath,
In calm repose from fears.
And, dreaming, hear as every branch
Pours bird-song on the sward;
And somewhere down the Paw-Twitch path
She passed to her reward.

I know there's those who'll think that I'm
A sucker for all that;
That, 'twas a sin I was beguiled
By an old and dirty cat.
For she was unrepentant
And she never stooped to please,
But I can't begrudge that weary dam
Those last few months of ease.

Look, poverty's an awful thing,
When riches we don't merit,
But it seems to me the worst would be
That poverty of spirit
That makes us choose to turn away
In someone's hour of need.
Don't all those rules just make us fools,
When we've no charity?

For know that, someday, you and I
Will wish a gentler penance;
For a scrap of rug and a warming mug
We'll trade our independence.
And hope that life will give us leave
To come in from the weather
And grant us each that bit of ease,
Before we're gone forever.

Third Place
For Margaret Fell (1614-1702)
by Mary O. R. Paddock
Critical Poet

Stories spill from this woman,
pool in the crevices of her hands.
A spoon clanks in continuum
as her fingers orbit a restaurant mug ,
her nails, stained moons.
History caped in gray, sits with me
sipping tea.

In quiet words of thees, thous and thines
she speaks of First Day Schools,
knitting blue mittens for Jewish orphans
and refugees from two centuries
who whispered in her attic.

She rocks Africa's lost babies,
shares stews stirred on indian fires,
writes letters to her children
from straw-lined prison cells
and murmurs meditations
from orange-gold savannas.
Beaten, bleeding, praying
she sings from the splintered umbrage
of the gallows.

Books she's read and written
flutter from her tongue
(They feel like bricks in my hands).
She speaks scriptures unaware.
I take notes with a borrowed pen,
in hopes it will all rhyme later.

Dedicated to those women who carry on the ministry Margaret Fell set 
forth, allowing her to "live on" in spirit.

Honorable Mention
by Jim Zola

I've never seen a face darken. Blush, 
pale perhaps. In this story it happens. 
Burdock and Yarrow choke broken tracks, 
a wonder that trains still chug this line. 
Late night ghost whistles haunt the most 
peaceful surrender. I wonder where, 
who, why? I have always sought 
the mysterious. Early days I spied, 
every stranger suspect, conspirator. 
Secret words, handshakes, looks easy 
to detect. Women who patted my head 
and smiled wound up back in my bed 
beneath puppy dog flannel. My heart grew cold. 
Teen years saw the birth of the avenger, 
part Spade, part Marlowe, part comic hero. 
I scoffed at any pleasantry and kept 
a profile lower than other fools 
my age. Rolled cigarettes, second hand 
jackets, fingers of whiskey. 
I gumshoed my way to now. Brown Sedge 
tickles my ankles. Mother-Of-Thousands. 
I put my ear to the track and wait. 
The story will end one way or another. 
Losing the light, my face darkens.

Honorable Mention
Lot's Wife
by Carol V. Yocom
Melic Roundtable

Feet on cold dull stone

harness like an old bathrobe
wonder more than the waking,
rising more than I can bear
how did I come here-
salt crystals like tree vines
knowledge binds, a shroud
redeem me

The waking and sea taste
more than the salt weight of it
uneased by stretch or flex
where thin weals rise, salt lines rub
starched gloves on numb hands
one glance and now it coils around,
cracked at knees and elbows
redeem me

I make coffee in a chenille kettle
anger more than hot steam rising
look back, wonder that I came here
that I slice oranges with sharp murder
peel my life away
a waking, my salt dough like some coiling snake,
cut off its flat brown head and toast it,
from the salt char, ashes ashes all gone away
redeem me

More than the waking
I would undo the one glance back,
leave my salt blood and broken teeth behind
ragged dreams caught on thin screams
beat the corners with stiff brooms
to cage them, just one look back to see
redeem me

Honorable Mention
Modern Art
by Laurel K. Dodge
The Writer's Block

He pummels her with brushstrokes, coaxes
bruises  to the surface that splay like O'Keefe's 
irises--so grotesque he can't look away 
and he can't look at them. She crawls toward 

Wyeth's horizon, trapped in Christina's
body, yearning for the house on the hill 
that looms like a headstone. He breaks her
with artless precision, folds her into smaller 

and smaller pieces like an origami crane;
elbows jut from her body like flightless
wings. He splatters blood on the linoleum 
with Pollack's careless intention, pleased 

by the random design the hemorrhage creates.
Her mouth gapes in Munch's silent howl; 
he hammers her skull to add gray matter
and bone, flecks of texture, to his composition.

His masterpiece is done. She's finished.

Honorable Mention
Nibbling Round the Edges of Africa
by Carole Barley
Wild Poetry

Gerald of course, was to blame for all of this.
Late night torchlight forays in Crete
led innocently to a meeting with a man
he had been whispering with all along.
Everything, they said,
was just so.

I had a pressed cardboard satchel
and always grubby ankle socks,
but that was to be expected
when every evening whispered Africa
and we had been emptying calabashes
of palm wine and conga-ing in the Congo
with the Fon of Bafut all night.

They sat me away from the windows at school.
I drew ring-tailed lemurs in algebra books
and wondered if Miss Pritchard ever got
the urge
to go collecting in the Cameroons.
Geography was all industrial hinterlands
and demographics, Germany never
really caught my imagination.
I filtered rain from jungle canopies
through my fingers, ran barefoot with cheetahs
in the vast orange bowl of the Serengeti.

I remember riding a bony Arabian
somewhere near Aswan, in one hundred
and thirty degree heat,
struggling with swatches of remembered French,
squinting my eyes to catch the sails
of silent feluccas gliding the Nile.
I remember Morocco.

I am saving the jungles for later,
but not so late that I am too old
to dance naked but befeathered
in the snake shadows of tribal fires.
And I will know that cane-rats
make good eating,
that salt kills leeches,
that bushbabies will stare moonily
through tangle-dark llianas,
and smile.

Honorable Mention
The Revenge of Dora Maar
by Harish Nambiar
Atlantic Unbound

Once your tongue has fingered
The wet gossamer of woman
You made her your next work
The Guernica you sold the world
You had found in a woman
Who came seeking the war
In your smoldering eyes
You wolfed them, milked
Drops of their evil into your palette.
Every time a virtue tempted
You sold an Apollinaire
Artful matador that you are
You died a monkey on a window
Seeing once glowing skin turn loose tarpaulin
Over flaccid muscles, twig bones
Under the gaze of the whore
You hired for that elusive hard-on
Picasso, the Faustus who won
Is framed in formalin
In the portrait of Dora Maar.

March 2001
Judge Robert Sward

First Place
When Does the First Train Leave for Atlanta?
by Gary Blankenship
Wild Poetry

red dirt or yellow clay
did not clog our lives
or ruin the wash
in ‘49

our world was colored gray
and stained brown
from granite gravel 
and Cascade mud
3000 miles 
from the red hills of Georgia

too few years gone by
too many blowouts ‘long the way
for Grandpa to quit
fighting long-dead feuds
with cheap whiskey
and bad beer
too few curves and passes
too many cold nights
and hot days hoeing beans
for Grandma to accept
his fight was real as her 16 babies
and not an old drunk’s raves

In our town in 1949, there were no what we now lump together as minorities.  
No coloreds, Indians, or Mexicans.  No one with a name that ended in vowels 
or started with Gold.  There were Catholics, but mostly they were German.  
Smedley’s Pass was white folk on the road to nowhere and not in any hurry to 
get there.  Farmers and loggers and a few veterans trying to forget the war.

in ‘49
they sent Dot to the sanitarium
Buddy drowned in Willow Lake
Carl lost his arm in a mill accident
Henry screamed in his sleep about killing Japs
Alice lost a boy-baby
Frank packed up his family and moved to San Diego

Grandpa swore at Grandma
for not getting the red and yellow mud
cleaned off his boots
that he couldn’t take Livie 
to the dance looking like no hick hill farmer
mud on his boots

Grandma prayed
for the crazy old man to die
prayed for the Lord God Jesus
to forgive her
for those evil thoughts
for sins past and yet to come
in ‘49

I was seven years old and lived with my grandparents.  Within a half day’s 
walk lived three uncles, two aunts, and several grown cousins.  I spent 
a fair amount of time hiking to their houses and sleeping under the stars, 
listening to coyotes and hoot owls.  Henry, unmarried, lived with us. 
Dorothy had been until she got the TB.

white trash
not quite
there were too many war heroes
dairy farmers
and logging truck drivers
in the family to be considered white trash

and by marriage
a bookkeeper
a forest ranger
the owner of the Smedley’s Pass Cafe
and the best auto mechanic in town

and we weren’t okies or arkies
just Georgia clay
which had birthed Cascade mud
for sixty-odd years

but we were close

In 1949, I found out how close.  Sundays, the women and a few 
of the older men went to church, babies and the girl-children in tow.  
Us boys would have to go unless we could find an excuse, like helping 
Uncle Willie with haying or Aunt Hilda’s husband fix his bulldozer.  
This Sunday, I had to help Grandpa and Henry find the Jersey milker, 
who had wandered into the woods to calf.

the west woods
nettles and thistle
blackberry and blackcap
at the edges
oregon grape
scrub alder and hazelnut

(Grandpa carried a flask
Henry the shotgun in case bears caught the Jersey’s scent
I’d snuck a few cookies from the cupboard)

from one end to the other
where giant fir once towered
by the creek
skunk cabbage
devils club

(she would head to the water
always did
I, small enough to get under the brush
would be the first to find her
always was)

to my left
Grandpa and Henry
sought an easier path
followed a deer trail
to the creek
to my left
I heard them arguing

(I could see Grandpa
pulling on the flask
could see Henry’s grip
could hear. . .)

In 1949, towns as small as Smedley’s Pass were as stratified as any 
Hindu city.  Families as large as ours were even more so.  Mabel, 
married to the Cafe and Paula to the bookkeeper, thought they were 
better than Sally with her father’s disease or Olive married to a gypsy
 logger.  Unwed mothers and bastard children at the bottom of the family heap.

you shiftless sum-bitch
milkin’ battle fatigue
stress my ass
you’re just a lazy bastard

old man shut your filthy mouth
you don’t be calling me no bastard
you don’t be talking that way about mama

you don’t know nothing
you stupid kid
you think I don’t know the bitch
was humping with my brother
why do you think I waited for him
on the jacksonville road
and why do you think he’s buried
in red and yellow clay
‘stead of brown mud


(I could see Henry’s fingers on the trigger
I could see Grandpa reach for the shotgun,
I could see the jersey breech-birthing by the creek
when I heard. . .)

you as much a bastard as that sissy boy of Clara’s

In 1949, I now understood why the kids at school whispered behind 
my back, and why I’d best stay away from some of the older kids.  
I understood that the difference between an Okie and a drunk Georgia 
redneck was far less than the 60 years that separated them when they first 
stepped into brown
Cascade mud.

in ‘49
they buried Henry in the valley plot 
Grandma went to live with Mabel
her world confined to broadcasts
of the Reverend Jimmy Tomlison
of the Church of Living Fires
of Atlanta Georgia

and I with Olive

in ‘49
Grandpa sat on the porch
of the house where his children were birthed
and watched Henry and the Jersey die
until he could not tell which was which

in ‘51
Dorothy was buried next to Henry
I caught rheumatic fever
and Mother came home for Dorothy’s funeral
married to another Hank from over Bartown way

Second Place
Letter for A. R. Ammons
by Gary Keenan

Wind thumps the windows 	this winter night
and floating candles 	flicker, white roses glow
in a glass vase on a mirror table-

the room more than inhabited
by crenellated books along the walls, 
more than defined by statuettes
of female deities and the temple bell

that make the upright piano an altar
and silence the moment's hymn.


Of course, in the sublime world
a single body 	   yields a single thought,
      and that planet hovers in a yawn
from lips too 	beautiful to speak a truth.

In this way imagination incorporates
the occasional flame of a city
or the hands as perfect as death.


Someday that unitary mind will become
apparent in the act of looking
at one another.  Meanwhile, there are prayers

in every pause, a choir of commas 
sorting the next sanctus 
from the last, all this 	living 	made plain:-
how violins creased the air

and wine chilled tongues, the languid
blessing 	of time, the language 
sitting through evening.

Even in such darkness, light persists.

Third Place
by Wendy Gravert

Already less than beautiful, I start
to fade my way to nothing.

Impatient bones tilt naked, stopped
en route to surface grandeur
by this pesky skin. They press 
against my clothes in awkward places.

Soon nothing will be left.

Radiant hope is toxic, strips me
bare. I can stare into the gaping black 
and smile with all the teeth I have left.

Mark's wife died today and I 
can't recall her name.
This is the worst part of it for me:
betrayals that I never planned. 

I should send flowers. I should weep.
I should tremble but I am tired and 
there just needs to be 
one good place to lie down.

Honorable Mention
In Praise of My Old Woman
by Joseph Carcel
Salty Dreams

My gal is like 
an old stove,
looking stern 
as a senior nurse
in chunky white,
but when
she gets
that special twist
she needs 
to turn 
her on,
she's cooking hot.


Most nights, my gal 
just says she's 
much too tired,
and curls
herself tight
as a mache ball, but
on mornings when she's perky,
and her petals fly 
like ololiuqui, 
. so sweetly open,
she rouses me so 
that I can't find the door
where conscience says I should be 
hard at work.

Honorable Mention
An Angel Poem: Bad Boy on the Sabbath
by Michael Virga
Atlantic Unbound

It's closer to where 
the sun rubs shoulders with earth. 

She trucks 
up the hill 

in white habit 
puffing with the breeze, 

her face flushed, 
a sister 

black Reeboks, 

as I count 
my blessings, 

cruising down 
the other side 

in a SUV, 
taking a cocktail-smoke. 

Praise the sleight of a higher hand 
for slow-motion 
around long curves on steep slopes 

for different slants 
on a shared groove 

for the flash 
from passing glimpses 

(or maybe it was 
a kinda deja-vu) 

in the sign of a glance 
we exchange graces - 

my stereo 
and her vesper 

in the name of the Father 
both turned up 

in unexpected 
imperfect 3 
part harmony. 

She & I, 

in the same 

crossing of the light.

Honorable Mention
Ode to Jack Kerouac
by Nicole D. Myers

I am from Atlantic famous sky
Kerouac and I
In Barstow,
having sailed to Frog Pond and back
A stop in San Juan Capistrano
for a pack of cigarettes
a box of Kleenex for our arguments
and a pen and paper for our poetry
Back in the car, he drives
without speaking, speeding
desert highway, sideways
I am sitting looking at the side
of his freshly shaven face
craving Mexico
savoring his words left behind 
under a burnt out Texaco sign
“Jack I love you.” I say
He sighs and recites me some
Hawaii Five O haiku
“Fuck you.” I say
“I love you too.” He smiles
Santa Monica, Malibu, West Hollywood
Henry Miller for dinner
Johnny Depp for dessert
sex as a bedtime snack
whispers under a window sill
smoking, choking, provoking
I hear him laughing over acoustic music
I leave and slide into a booth next to
a movie star at the back of a barroom, bored
We kiss and I confess I am a poet
Though I won’t reveal my truest verses
I want a funk mobile, glockenspiel
Give me back my vinyl records
my electric typewriter, my pillow talk
Jack, I’m sorry I fear your loathing
I adore your roadside attraction
but I like cappuccino and cheap wine
I don’t like dirty fingernails and broken promises
You’re the devil in my boots Baby
I can quit you cold turkey
hook up with a rock and roll show
hide behind the harmonica and dance
I will find it hard to be alone
but I can’t be your home, your Hollywood
your hell
I will settle in Venice and take up tennis
publish a book, get on TV
teach English and smoke cigars
cut off my hair and change my name
believe in intercourse as an appetizer
a good night kiss as the main meal
Jack, in the car driving beyond the Vegas strip
I love you no doubt
How about Mexico in September?
How about the Atlantic?
You, the ocean, I and the famous sky.

Honorable Mention
The Thing About Colors
by Ani Gjika
Atlantic Unbound

The thing about colors
said the artist, is that they 
kiss each other in such a way 
that you can not tell where 
the negative area ends 
and the positive one begins. 
For example, he continued, 
if you look at this black area of paint 
you think of, let’s say, a cave 
and if the black is kissed by white 
you think the cave’s mouth 
is washed by ocean’s foam 
and somehow if you move your eyes 
from black to white or the other way around 
you see the cave as a tunnel 
from where the water rushes out 
and falls off through rocks 
as it’s hit by sun and you think you see 
a little canoe with people in it, 
winding over a slightly raging wave, 
about to get swallowed up by the waterfall 
but then you look closer 
and you see that’s just a brush stroke...illusion, 
the secret wooing of the artist’s hand 

and you say, aha, that’s what 
maestro is trying to show me, 
and you leave the studio 
but you’re still in the cave.

Honorable Mention
True-be Red -or- "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted..."
by Noelle Boyle
Callahan's Saloon

you landed on the unkindest of circumstances 
and donned the ruby red stilettos
that you'd coveted
(dance, dance 'til your soul gives out!)
They said you'd be safe with them on
but instead you were accosted by little men
and your stilettos go click click click
on the broken yellow line of the pavement.
It's a long journey, girl
and you've had different companions
no Heart, no Brains, no Balls,
adventures every night.
(Once you passed by the figure
of Lot's wife - empty eyes staring back
at your hard-won street corner.)
You got
waylaid in a field of poppies,
opium dreams, babygirl.
Your bucket of water
melting down the evil thoughts;
spoon candle needle rubberband
The Promised Land
shimmering green on the horizon.
But there's lies there too, baby,
Ruby Red,
Snow White.

Honorable Mention
by Cristina Farinas
Gandy Creek

I imagine I see in Grandmother’s eyes
the Cuba I have never known,
the Caribbean that sings in my blood,
ocean breezes humming and swaying
across powdered sugar to long-silent 
Congas. In Miami, my feet tap, hips swing, 
to Merengue beat, red blue yellow
in fevered swirling masses. Old men
remember town squares and sidewalk
dominoes, in Guayaveras, guitars playing
memories only my elders hold on to.

Grandmother’s skin shimmers, deserts 
under sun’s heat built into hand
woven basket bazaars, fruit vegetable
marketplaces beneath palm fronds. Jade
among buff silk lands, copper throats and 
silver hands, hidden by veils, look back 
from photos of great uncles and distant 
parents. Customs of Moorish invasions 
linger behind emerald eyes and fair skin.
Yet I see them in faces, names like Perez.

The land forty shades of green called 
in my dreams, laughed in my tears 
when I walked the paths caught between 
mountain and ocean. Meadows yellow 
with cups awakened the Celts, ancestors’
worship of plants, animals, rhythms, 
mysticism in celestial grounds and oak 
sanctuaries. I knew a life here once
and wept again when I left it, the sorrow 
of loss, the joy of finding more heritage.

Honorable Mention
Chicago Bob
by Phil Stinson
Rabbit Hole

Skin almost iridescent black,
balding, boxer's nose, thick lips
set in sensual pout around the mouth-harp,
he blows tradition from a century past.
Nodding at me over the microphone
when the bridge comes around 
It's solo time for Mr. Lucky.
Forget technique and education
these people want to hear my soul -
the scarred-up white boy
playing piano for a legend.
Brown eyes watch, suspicious at first
slowly giving it up
starting to move.
This is my chance to erase boundaries,
change all colors to blues.
He never acknowledges and blows a new riff. 
At dawn he turns slowly, asks me
to write letters home to his wife
translates stumbling emotions of the road
as the bus pulls into Atlanta.

April 2001
Judge Robert Sward

First Place (Co-Winner)
by Joseph Carcel
Atlantic Unbound

Vim vixens--remember them?--dance 
the Platelet Spin, look sharp  
as scissors, cut out 
concepts beyond Thomas's doubt. 
It starts a simple two step  
until frenzy carries them. 

I didn't know that bones could 
bend that way, she said.

The famished farmer 
reads seed packets, envious 
of the wind. The ghost 
tries to kindle comfort: 

We all start  
somewhere, in a howl, 
a patella's jerk, 
a doctor's stern look 
up the vagina.

Oh, such fancy vestibules, 
housing the mystery of repetition. 
Floods, not Noah's, flames, not Lot's 
but inklings of petals,  
soggy either with  nurturing rain 
or with mortal mnemonic blood, 
rising to the sun,  
rising red to cry  
or spew sons 
into Darwin's ghetto. 

Pleasure, like a thimble  
on a thumb, protects 
us from the realization of raw servitude 
to the dumb gears that grind tears 
to seed, to bread, to vomit 
nameless in their forsaking. 

A gaunt guitarist  
thumbs an anthem. 
The ants dance 
glottal curves, 
grunt like internecine parrots 
pecking at the space of heart. 
We are wide in the ranging 
of masquerading mind. 
The dancers think they think 
the only news. 

But they die lowly, not differently, 
to Bach, to Berry as to hip-hop 
gutterals, drawers billowing 
like flowers, from flowers 
dropping petal and seed 

     Pressed memory in Bibles!

spastic in their conundrums, 
but they see only smoothness 
in their eyes' mirrors. 

Oh, evil genius of all 
Spanish Prisoners 

So, heave your 
original breaths 
that steam even those mirrors 
until you can't see yourselves. 

This is interdiction  
of all but lucky spasm 
without mirrors. 
This ecology mesmerizes. 
Suddenly last summer 
is the only wish.

First Place (Co-Winner)
Letting Go, from Delos
by Debra Lievens
Atlantic Unbound


She sings her disappearance 
like adieu, gilded, 
the era of bells tolling, 
the slow fading: film’s white to gray, 
credits rolling at the end. 

Still, her aria 
rings above her shrinking frame, 
towers, then contracts -- 
her claim to solitude expanding; 
the anointing of dusk before pitch, 
her sanctuary, horizon’s shading light 
pointed at the copper underbelly 
of silence, 
her own parading conversations

     slipping mute into release.

We listen in, familial edges losing ground -

     the echoing pledges of allies nearly present.

Rapt, her paling face 
slows kindly; 
solace scoops out its velvet nest, 
its resting place, this scratchy hibernation.
In the tender palm of her chair, 
embracing worn letters 
with fingers still exquisite, 
only the racing squirrels 
witness her leisurely departure, 
barter at her window, 
wise to the dusted sparrows
squabbling over crumbs 
and her attention. 

She replies to them all, 
whistles her giving, her solo, 
her melancholy quarter-grin offered 
to the invisible applause 
of friends,
the laudable mention 
of distant recall -

     while the pull of tide going out
     renovates her sliding in, castles yielding.


Ancient islands of the Aegean 
pace their seasons, 
sliced and pocked by tourists 
swarming to hone wonder for themselves: 
the breeding of oracles, 
one-eyed titans forming, 
gods greater than reason. 

     I wander, seeking:
     the journey’s promise,
     the trusted hand of my lover
     drinking my own governmental pleasure;
     the lanes of collar and neck,
     thicket of strong limbs
     steering, tongues caught on breath
     like cinders in a cry of brick,
     searing, then curling away - 

From the pyre of riddling heat 
to the slate blown shimmer of basting rock, 
I grieve for the organic. 
Everywhere the dead touch, 
the honoring of ruins, 

     the melting of lapis,

absence wooing beauty: 
the aged coupling, the rain-fed sweet, 
the festival, the fast. 
In the temple, opulence once wed
the dancing of fruit; 
its flowering granted, then passed to the next
with gangling blooms soaring, 

     then losing scent -

the fleeting islet of shoots, 
the chanting of sea grass, 
this stark plain of barren earth
spent and discoloring, 
adjoined to ages 
that set their feathering roots 
to wet haven, adorned, 
moored in amber arcing light. 

Ogling my own adventure, 
I preen -- 
the climbing up, avaricious -- 
O the plenitude! The power
of pinnacle reached! 

     Then the slow and reluctant
     trailing down, bright regret

clamoring for the jutting ledge, 
glimmering in the encroaching pool, 
the stammering beach -
The night runner amasses his laurels, 
cool in his cloudy crown, 
the vital passing the weary --
the going up, 

     the coming down,

the heavy robe of elation. 


Once, she cruised these seas 
on a great ship, the time of great ships; 
the resolute view of the young. 

     Was this her sacred berth
     like mine, this filtered place
     of honeyed dust? Her loving 
     sung in clean bungalows
     of white and blue, midnight stretches cool
     under tender foot?

Blistering in my own 
red descent from Delos, 
I look beyond: 
to lands cantilevered --
companionable pillars of sea foam smoke. 
I look outward: 
rugged hands of coast; 
the delicate lift, seductive shallows. 
I listen: 
time sifts through the musing 
bells of sirens, 
the cry of spirits, 
the agonizing beauty 
of the climb. 

The jagged line 
of burnished rock clatters 
against the azure sky. 
Showers peal 
their chill resounding duty, 
greeting ragged cliff and flats, 

     pounding present from past,
     the brittle seat of defection.


Blazing in its heat, 
the liquidation of races 
cleaves its own shrill metallic shadow, 
deadbolt slabs fork and heave, 
deliberate steps, 

     the allure of the kill,
     of razing civilization.

We hum and croon the erection
of grand monument. 
We mourn the fall, 

     bronzed images cast relentlessly
     from grace, dreams sucked from lips - 

I circle a thought: 
one toe tracing a milky stone
in the dismissive water -- 
Facing the long path down, 
her winnowing song of flesh and bone
braced itself 
long after spirit bent, and gave. 
Only the lilting of branches 
brushed against her window’s glass
aroused a quickening 
at the end: 
a fluttering recollection of pleasure, 
the colors of voyage, 
eyes hushed 
in the skirmishing of grave whispers,
beating of wings. 


Gathered up around her intent, 

     a shuttering shawl, her prayer, 

the cruel closing of portals
renders her once glorious ride 
a flicker -

     the passionate press of stippling air
     against my own stranger’s gaze-

At last, I surrender 
to letting go, 
the palest epitaph of salt and wind, 
reclusive flight, her eloquent choice,
our bridge of sandy sorrow.
I surrender, chasing still 
the perfect holding of her trebled voice;
the scattering of rest, slaking of loss; 
one pebble,
breaking against the returning tide.

Second Place
Rat City
by Dan Tompsett
Gandy Creek

The streets are the theme
in a hanging mural of fog...

Scratched and torn dollar-
a-hope tickets litter
a bus stop in southwest Seattle.
Day laborers and I sit on knocked
down shopping carts, and wait.
Local pigeons binge on crumbs;
bums are hungry,
but not hungry enough
to bag these feathered free lunches.

A sixteen-year-old school girl,
wearing a mask of rouge-evil,
walks by my much obliged
middle-aged eyes
as the soaked grey air
melts her blue mascara. It runs
thick through my rump-romp thoughts.

The sun Tom-peeps
through the broken pane of a cloud.

A yellow Camaro,
with black and tweetered interior,
booms the happy Big Band sound
that spiked the punch of music
long before Cobain's grunge
and angst hardened the rain
that loves this emerald city.

Third Place
On Hearing the News of Your Hospitalization, (a CBE for Teresa)
by Jim Zola
Melic Roundtable

I walk to the edge of the yard barefoot 
to fetch yesterday's news. Tottering between 
last dark and first light, morning is almost a question. 
Yes, the sun comes up again. My three-year-old 
is amazed by the earth's consistency. 
There are things that still amaze me, simple 
things -- the muscle tick on a horse's thigh, 
the scent that lingers after love, the skewed 
lament of a crazy girl's cry. 

In Michigan we lived on Hoover Street 
next-door to the Crazy Girl, what we called her, 
we being my wife and I. The girl 
lived in the house with her mom and dad. 
She talked to herself, argued. It seems those days, 
houses were closer together, walls thinner. 
We heard her through open windows. She stood 
outside for hours, or sat in her car. 
It wasn't the words we heard but the tone 
of her voice, calm or suddenly rising. 
Although sometimes we passed, coming or going, 
we never spoke. Then one day she was gone 
and I found myself missing her the way 
a favorite shirt, sleeves worn away, is missed. 
And so I began to talk to myself, 
gentle arguments, debates. That summer, 

a raccoon took residence in the walls 
of our attic. I worked nights and so 
never heard the claws ticking against drywall. 
My wife did and would describe the sounds. 
It was as if the house were haunted, as if 
the crazy girl had come back. I thought 
my wife had taken a step in that direction. 
I never heard the sounds myself. 
Then, one early evening, I saw a raccoon 
the size of a small dog waddle across 
our yard and down the street as if she owned 
the neighborhood. She did. A few nights later, 
when we were sure she was out prowling, 
we boarded up the hole that gave her 
entrance to our life. 

I digress. What I want to say is the horse 
becomes part of the field, love settles 
If we work it just right, the world doesn't matter. 
We go on in sadness, in love, in the lost song 
of a mad girl who we claim to be our own.

Honorable Mention
Frequently Unasked Questions
by Chris Ziesler
The Writer's Block

What color is a peal of bells?

Can a thunder-roll smell of cinnamon? 

How warm is a suit made from a tissue of lies?

Should it be worn with a buttonhole?

How far can a dog bring a snowflake on its nose?

Why doesn't the sea taste of shipwrecks?

How soft is a single heartbeat?

Does death dance deftly?

Is a cat's claw too quick?

What became of last summer's moonbeams?

Will walls always be so wide?

Is love's last question hiding behind the first lie?

Why should carriage clocks care about glaciers?

If a red shoe is lost, will its partner be blue?

Is a spoon deep enough to carry a wish to the mountain?

Will rubbing a lantern raise its luster?

Do birds sing in straight lines?

When will a poem lose its voice?

Should brand-new answers be trusted?

Why don't rainbows hunt in packs?

Honorable Mention
by Ani Gjika

When you sit
over my legs
tickling my belly,
you’re a crazy old man
worshiping my Chi
with hands, eyes 
and chants in a language
I’ve never heard 
but understand.
Then, when you lock 
your hands with mine
coming down 
to seize my lips,
you’re the cataract of vim;
your lips splash 
on my peripherals
overtake all my portals
no longer traveling 
the outskirts,
you're in.

Honorable Mention
by Mitchell Metz
Melic Roundtable


Mornings I harrow, afternoons harvest
heirloom tomatoes. Nights I eat the seeds,
spit the flesh. Staked to square trellises
and clipped stem-tight, they never fail to thrive

for me. Plump Burbanks, pinkskinned Brandywines
people the vines like fairytale children
in a small town warlock's kitchen garden.
One hour too long in the sun and they burst.

The skinny lady in the floppy hat
and matching floral gloves stops by again.
"Looking good," she says, inserting her chin
between the pickets. "You are kind," I say.


By day I watch him from the third floor study,
sweating in his perfect patch. The sun sinks
into his broad back with fangs I imagine
my own. While I chew bacon in the sandwich
my wife makes, she walks the fence to him,
returns soon -- flushed and gratified. God!

She beds early, never sees him naked,
rabid, rolling in nettles by the shed,
shreds of neighborhood witches in his teeth.

Honorable Mention
by Coleen Shin

We lay twins 
under cool sheets in black night. 
Our singular heat 
an island in a cold sea. 
His hands ask the question 
he no longer voices. 
Hands that move gently, tentativley 
the length of me 
to span and cup; 
the tender belly- 
a temple of pain 
where hurt was born 
and grew strong. 
Surgical signatures 
map repeated invasions 
wars waged 
by sterile troops wielding 
and sharp knives. 
Too late they shook their heads 
placed on a silver scale 
my hope 
my terror 
my despair. 

My womb blasted, diseased 
weighed ninety grams. 
Pain escaped before the seige. 
Virgin territory 
Dark interiors 
indulging grim amusements, 
climbing into our bed. 
We huddle like twins 
an island. 
My husband, my refuge 
I thrill to him, 
need the music 
of his slow kiss- 
the holy communion 
of lips and eyes. 

two white tablets 
500 MG 
a toxic currency 
to buy back time. 
My lover, flowing 
lays his forehead on mine 
rubs his cheek to it's mate 
knows soon relief will come. 
He will feel it move away. 

Curtains, spring damp 
blow fragrant 
cool sheets, tropic island. 
He sleeps, 
no longer twin. 

Tangled, a celtic rune 
I erase the language of our love. 
Ease away from the weight and angles 
of our satisfaction. 
I sit cross legged, smoking 
communing with Jesus on the wall 
forever dying on polished rosewood. 
I will pray to other gods. 
To the wind, 
Venus in a dark sky. 

The clock glows electric hours. 
Soon it begins, I will not sleep. 
Pain waits patiently 
to renew the seige.

Honorable Mention
Uncomfortable Remembrance
by Patricia Gomes

I took down an old book today, 
blew off the dust and settled in 
to read some poems from the sixties. 
They were long and moldy, filled with 
tales of carnage and blood and gasses and 
medals of honor, death rewarded with 
a Purple Heart; the long-awaited flight home made 
in a zippered bag. 
The bad guys still wore black. 
Bleeding children as naked as the trees. 
Did the trees also scream and writhe in ignorance. 
Or were they simply silent, dead witnesses. 

I turn the pages, silent hope 
for reprieve, but none came. 
Academicians igniting flags that fan the flames 
of their indignation, using social and racial 
injustices for kindling. 
Fighting here, stead of jungle soil. 
Memories not my own, 
and lead weight in my stomach forces me to turn the page. 
And read more of the same. 

Of assassination, of convoluted theorem. 
Conceptual images of our future dashed 
again and again and again. 
Until my head hung down under 
the weight of the National Guard, the CIA, and a decade of shame. 

What of the pretty lyrics I still recall, 
sugar-plumbed sounds filling the air. 
Promised me love that grows, safe harbor 
under your umbrella. 
Peace and love but a fantasy to be sure, else 
a dream, albeit an appealing one. 
Where have all the young girls gone, 
flowers in their hair, flowers everywhere. 
Smiley faces, bright as moons sewn on 
denim, frayed and belled heralding a rebirth. 
If one came, it was muted. 
Aquarius never dawned. 
I didn't read of it in the papers, 
nor was it announced on the evening news. 

But, Jupiter did align with Mars and, 
united, we took that one small step for man. 
A giant leap for mankind. Words that did not reach 
the ears of Charlie, squatting in the hills 
of Spahn Ranch. 
Helter skelter marked the end 
with crosses carved in skin. 
Day-dream believer still, I close the book 
wondering if the colors of Peter Max were ever real.

Honorable Mention
Baking the Tart
by Lynette Hall
The Writer's Block

remember how the girl smiled 
with trance on her face 
in the second row in ms. stuarts' 
english class. you knew she'd done 
the nasty 
not because billy bragged 
but because the smile meant 
that he had kissed her big as a movie screen. she ran the tip 
of her finger 
over her lips, so lost 
that they puckered in a slo-mo 
replay for the boys. 
you had to respect love like that. 
so you trashed her in fifth period gym 
slappin b-ball and elbows and insults 
at billy, making him sorry he ever did her 
what a slut, who hasn't the bitch opened 
her legs for, no matter he's been hitting on her 
since they first started dating 6 months ago. 
i think it's significant that boys hit on girls. 
cos it's like a slap into reality 
when all the bitches 
from the pep squad gather in the corner 
and heather 
whispers loud about the usual taboos, 
and how billy was hittin on her just a week before, and her green eyes 
slither sideways like fangs 
to their mark who jerks her finger 
from her lips , the bruise 
just beginning to rise.

May 2001
Judge Harvey Stanbrough

First Place
For Brian
by Ken Ashworth
Melic Roundtable

If they had bundled you home 
in blue flannel, crepe paper 
draped from the walls, 
your shrill cry filling 
the room with balloons, 

moon-faced; ratcheting the air 
like an upturned beetle, 
fat and white as a thumb 
left too long in water, 

and trundled you into 
the bed next to me, 
I would have been afraid. 

The nurse tapped her watch, 
covered your eyes with a towel 
and blotted your toes. 

All I ever knew of you 
was a name tattooed 
on a stretch of vellum, 
and one black footprint 
stepping off the page.

Second Place
Stars in the Sea
by Harvey Novack

Sweeping low over the winking guns of the fleets,
Torpedo to strike, pounce a trigger,
Out of the sun the Mitsubishis,
Hit, shatter, hit, shatter,
This is no Tyrone Power huge in movie gloom,
This is some college kid burning to death, plunging
toward the Pacific,
A kitchen-calendar Jesus fades in and out, in and
out, as the blue
becomes huge.

Third Place
by Patrice Gates
Gandy Creek

Throughout these latest years she's sat and spun
the threads of each calm day, and woven tight
and fast the cloak that covered everyone
she loved, and locked all doors against the blight.
To no avail, apparently, despite
her care the threads unravel one by one,
the locks unpick, and open onto night--
it's Rumplestiltskin, come to claim her son.
And now the common girl who once was bold
enough to charm a prince and trick a sprite,
who never learned to change the straw to gold,
stands powerless against the monster's right.
She reaches with her hands toward a cold
abyss she cannot name, or touch, or hold.

Honorable Mention
Wait 'Til I Tell My Daddy
by Kemel Zaldivar

Yeah Dad, I heard that squat son of a bitch wind up, 
wind up and flag me good across the butt cheeks. 
Then the tall one lashed and he knew 
how to swing a whip, nine swine skin thongs 
trimmed with twin lead rays flaying broad 
across my trapezoid. Then the short one hit, 
and the tall one, and he hit, and he hit, 
and Israel sung Hossana, falsetto Halleluias 
as skin tore, veins and capillaries juiced. 
Arteries sprayed as Judea raved and centurions 
driveled to naked muscle of whimpering messiah, 
backskin red in dancing ribbons, flapping 
to Zion’s temperate gusts. My flesh was made 
an octopus of tissue, so the Italians stopped. 

And I slumped to the courtyard, cramping, 
cursing, sticky. Centurions sang my kingdom, 
robed my wet topography in purple velvet, 
tacked some t!horny firebranch to my scalp-- 
veiny as your Hebrews. They shouted, 
touting the centurion stour. Stew them 
in pogrom, I prayed. Evermore spit baptismal 
pogrom--cook the Levites in rank sulfur, 
hurry patience to Armageddon, boil kike 
fungus in Gehenna! your hell smear peace. 
And they gave me a branch for a scepter, 
and bitchslapped me and called me pretty, 
then cudgeled my crown with that branch, slu! rping 
when my scalp blood blotted their headgear. 

But Dad, I loved Italian virtue, cried Eloi 
Eloi Lama Sabachthani and Fuck Elijah! 
And tearing my robe off they crabbed the flogging, 
stripping blood and serum from suckling clots. 
My wounds curdled, caked, were splashed 
in lime juice; my eyes gargled crimson. 
They membraned my shit-meat to humor 
your people, and saddled the cross arm-- 
the hundred-pound timber gouging the armspan 
it would sport. The splinte!red lumber nested 
in your pigeon-king Father! I hit t!he deck. 
Write what you will of my piety, but with Skull Hill 650 yards away, 
you think I did not bitch? 
Yeah, Mikey and Gabe strained their collars.

Honorable Mention
waiting as the bird waits (for permission)
by Richard Zola

this may be the last room
these the last shadows
on polished wood
your bracelets on this table
(yes and you traced
with your finger
circles in the grain of pine)
the birds you painted
across the wall
the bowls you made
these yellow flowers
this air on my skin
as you pass
this need to taste your teeth
to read the maps of your mouth
to press into you
to eat your hair
this stained floor
and your feet
blue veined and painted
this may be the last time
of waiting
for the shift of air
as you open the door
from the street

Honorable Mention
Pregnant Voices (Of Childbearing Age)
by Elizabeth Kate
Callahan's Saloon


I haven't ever had a child of my own. 
I don't think it makes me less a person 
Never to have grown a person inside me. 
When I heard him say, "A 
Woman's defining moment is when she gives birth," 
I admit 
I felt a twinge of regret 
At all the could-have-beens 
Before I faced him squarely and said, "I am 
Not less fulfilled because I haven't seen 
Myself round and full and fertile. 
I have found my definition 
By making different choices." 
I spoke the truth. 
It's a part of womanhood I've always wanted, 
A child of my own. 


I cringe 
When I hear them say, 
"So when do you two think you'll start a family?" 
Some people 
Are worse than the IRS or insurance forms 
For asking nosy questions. 
I think I'll get a t-shirt, 
Paint an arrow on it, pointing to my womb, 
And write: "This space intentionally left blank." 


Last Sunday, see, I accidentally 
almost killed the woman next to me in the pew. 
I think I could have beat her 
with my prayer book, if I hadn't been so busy 
trying to remember whether 
turning the other cheek 
meant that I shouldn't tell her 
to mind her own damn business 
when she reminded me the Bible 
said, "go forth and multiply," 
and coyly asked when we were planning 
to do our part. 
I'm pretty sure I could have beat the rap, 
pleaded temporary insanity 
due to grief, two failed adoptions, 
and infertility


She wears pregnancy proudly, 
A badge of womanhood. 
She flirts flashing eyes 
And rolls full hips, 
Maternity blouse swinging 
With milk-engorged breasts. 
Like a Cochiti storyteller, 
Or the Madonna of Renaissance art, 
She flaunts fertility.

Honorable Mention
Loving Hymn
by Ani Gjika
Atlantic Unbound

To love him is a matter
of building brick and gold
walls, splashing in hot weather,
walking in cold feet.

It is to build a weir
by day and tear it down
by night, speak in silent voices
from many cages deep.

It is to plant a tree that bends
this way and that and
while the apples never fall
the ground stays apple full.

It is to pick the black
fish from white waters
inside his eyes for a new
purpose under our sun.

It is a matter of telling him
of love and what suffices,
a song I sing to hush
all his surrounding noises.

June 2001
Judge Harvey Stanbrough

First Place
by Mitchell Metz
Melic Roundtable


Been workin' 'Bama levees, love, 
better'n half my days, 
half again more my nights. 

Got me gear aplenty -- big rubber 
coat, buckets, barrows, sandbags, 

spades, nasty little Bobcat 
clutch rid through, hipboots, 

knotted arms could choke an oak, 
love, in their crook 

from the dirty work of keepin' dry. 

Muddy river, she 
don't stand half a chance 
on a double-bitchdog dare of bustin' loose 
me on watch. Come 

some lame storm, love, 
sends wives and Preacher Bill 
to Revelations bawlin' deluge, hopin' heaven, 

cobblin' arks, 
I swagger bulwarks like cock 

his coop, glare the yellow water back, 
forge the banks by force of will. 


It's drizzle done me in. A simple, 
wet spring. Months 

she sneaked insidious up -- 
slicked the mud, love, under foot, 
rose the river dangerous. 

Tonight my waders, sudden logged, 
tug me under. Shovel's gone. 
Bobcat's mudded down. 

Wonder how I missed knee deep. 

Sirens scream the breach -- 
my failure, my cropper -- to the sleeping town. 
Nothin' for it now 

but swim, love, swim. Love? 
Don't know how.

Second Place
The Old Man
by Phil Stinson
Rabbit Hole

Mother and I left him his clarinet,
since it couldn't be used for bodily harm.
He plays "Melancholy Baby" over and over,
eyes closed as if in a trance,
forgets the final line and cadence. 
Those calm limpid eyes still flare in a second
lights flicker and crackle, angry
nurses sprint in with restraints
braced for another episode.
Repeating meaningless syllables as the drugs take effect
he looks over suddenly at me
starts to hum the lullaby he used to play at bedtime
smiles as hairs rise on my arms. 
My sister grows apples out West somewhere.
She sent him a box of rotten ones once.
The son of a bitch used to whip scars into our backs and legs
did things to us we choose not to recall
played Benny Goodman as we kept our eyes fixed on the floor
explained the beautiful abstract nature of jazz
threw his wine goblet at our cowering mother
who secretly taught us Chopin. 

Third Place
Tambourine Man
by David Anthony
Gandy Creek

His hair a thicket, voice a rasping saw
that cut through cant and conscience's decay--
my scruffy hero channeled youth's dismay
and changed the world in 1964.
His music called to me: I heard with awe
wild songs that wheeled and soared above the day
then, swooping, drove indifference away.
Glad to be young, I stood at heaven's door.
He calls again, and how could I resist
a ragged clown behind a reverie
still chasing wraiths within the day's grey mist?
It's darker now: I cannot sense or see
a way ahead, but I can dance. Hey! Mist-
er Tambourine man, play a song for me.

Honorable Mention
by Brian Long
Melic Roundtable

Once, among the high grasses 
of the birthing-field, you wondered 
if the thrush knew lyrics to music 
she has carried since first flight, 
if the glide given the roll of her throat 
sounds from a place untaught to her, its pith 
long vanished with the dulling of the eggtooth, 
the rend of the blue shell hush. You asked 
what words I thought she might be singing, 
and for weeks I listened, unriddling. 

Last evening I watched her kneel 
at a halo of string and drybrittle vine, 
tend a trinity of songs kept secret there 
and rhythmned to the beat and taper of soon- 
rising wings. I saw them strain into the dark 
of her fauces where the blind worm remembers 
to them the old dust hymns, the red clay songs 
patterned from the lay of the earth, epiphanies 
of sylph-hollow voices sung from the rot. 

This morning their trilling woke me 
from other worlds, and I stumbled 
into my own to find you staring 
toward me in the fog of the mirror. 
You lay your palm against mine, 
and we cleared the faces of the glass, 
tilted its frame to better angle 
the light; I imagined you walking 
toward the gates, blinking. You 
reflected in the florescents 
for the breadth of a dampened moment, 
but faded when my son was brought to me, 
was nested in the bend of my arms. 

He pats at my mouth, grabs my tongue, 
blathers and coos strange songs to me, 
flame-blue eyes God-deep with sudden 
questions. I lean to whisper, hair tumbling 
willow and dark, to find you humming 
somewhere beneath the heat of his breath. 

Though we do not know the words, 
he and I, we sing you back 
from the silence of the stones, 
back from the rift of the dead 
still crumbling, from the soundless 
settle of the long cold. 

Honorable Mention
by Sandy Steinman
Salty Dreams

She lies.
Swears never again to disturb him,
yet tonight, tiptoeing silent downstairs
in the dark, everyone in bed,
she digs him up, inspects him,
a month after her brother had soaped,
and bathed him in a sink of scalding water.

Scabby knees itch,
rest on the cool ground
as small fingers unearth
Gordon from his tiny grave
below the forsythia
near the splintery sand box
and the swings.

Fluted shell intact, the head lolls
on her index finger with its torn nail.
She strokes him as when she'd placed
him in that soil, wonders when God
will take him away or change him
into somebody else.

Honorable Mention
Prosthetic Love
by Rus Bowden

Your leaving takes my legs
out from under me. 
No longer
may I walk with you,
my leaping days through.
I devise wooden pegs
on stumps
and hobble off balance
whenever I think I see you.

I reach for you,
arm stubs in thin air.
If you were in front of me,
you would feel me bump
and my weight 
as I topple
face down.
I install hooks and turn,
gut wrench at night,
you not really there.

My heart tears out
through all this.
I try replacement,
but it is too tricky.
I hear or read your name
and cannot compose myself.
From nowhere comes your voice,
smile for a kiss and I know
I have lost my head.

I would be nothing
if it were not
for phantom sensations.

Honorable Mention
by Janet Kenny
Wild Poetry

A wisp of old woman,
curved like a scythe,
tottered to me as she
fussed her shopping,
her walking stick hooked
on her chopstick wrist.

She spoke to me then
in a dried leaf voice.
Inaudible there
in that busy street,
swept by rude gales
from passing trucks.

I leaned closer to hear:
Mein eyes not gut.
time for bus, ven comes it?
"Which bus do you want?"

She smiled, shook her head
then sang to herself
- and somebody else,
in? not German. Yiddish -
"Which bus?"
She leaned towards me,
her tiny claw reached
to stroke my face.
Du she said.


Honorable Mention
High Tea
by Christina Fletcher

It is time to take tea: Earl Grey
(iced, with thinly sliced lemon)
or steaming Lapsang Souchong.

The guests are seated in the garden:
it is uncharacteristically warm.
Yes, and the air heavy with lilac.

His plumed helmet, sword and K
were boxed long ago. There are
no servants. His wife will pour.

Later, when they are settled,
he will speak of Lamu: the hiss
of baboons on a dry dirt runway;

cold showers in Petley's,
where he sketched dhows
on Sunday afternoons.

They will forget pain and pensions,
cataracts, angina and the irritation
of drafting wills.

The Chardonnay (perfectly chilled)
comes from a cool climate
where grapes ripen slowly.

If pressed, he will recall high tea
with the Sultan of Zanzibar;
the delicate question of flags.

notes: K: a knighthood.
Lamu: an island/mainland (depending on the season) on the coast
of Kenya.
Dhows: ships common in the Indian Ocean. 

Honorable Mention
Swive the Lubbers
by Josef Koudelka
The Writer's Block

All I have is this. 
Stop looking for anything 
else. No winking 
metaphors or zipped-up 
simile. No birds, 
no rocks, no trees. 
The title came to me 
last night. Nothing else 
happened. I didn't 
make love to a roan mare 
dressed in a shadow. 
My dead father 
didn't appear 
speaking in tongues. 
I have grown weary 
of waxing poetic. 
A good title. 
Nothing more. Let the poets 
turn nothing into bliss.

July 2001
Judge Harvey Stanbrough

First Place
Here is a Poem that Speaks of Loss
by Tara A. Elliot

I sit on this bus reading a book
written six years after your death.
Here is a poem that speaks of loss--
compares it to rain that streams down gutters.
I try to absorb it as though it were made of water,
yet cannot, for the words run off me, 
like losing you never did.
The green world rolls by, and I think of how
grief is so much more like the fallen snow.
It is heavy sadness that cloaks
those who can do nothing but stand still,
allowing it to fall upon shoulders in sheets,
and sheets, fierce wind piling it into drifts of uncertainty.

It is ten-o'clock when we lose you,
your legs buckle and you fall backward onto the couch.
I do not see this, I am filling your bath --
the first one in days, 
you would not allow us to bathe you until now.
I hear mom scream 
like I've never before heard her voice,
this high-pitched shriek that jets through the house,
winds around corners of walls
and splinters off in my ears,
like wood breaking.
I run.
You are paler than I have ever seen you,
blue eyes open, as though seeing 
someone you haven't in a long while,
your shoulder propped up by a couch cushion
so that your head lolls in an unnatural state.
You are not breathing,
and mom is still screaming,
"Bill - don't do this to me, not now!"
My future husband is standing in back of the couch
looking at you, at me, at mom. He paces.
I put my hand on your chest,
my ear to your face--
my hand to your neck, your wrist--
there is nothing, no breath, no light.
I yell out, "Call 911."
Paul panics and asks me what the number is.
I pull the cushion from under you and shout, "911."
You now lay flat, and I tilt back your head with my palm,
put my hand under your neck like I was taught in summer camp.
I sweep my fingers through your mouth,
pull out your dentures and throw them on the coffee table.
I breathe for you, my mouth on yours--
my breath, your breath,
I inhale staleness, Daddy,
I can taste the cancer.
But I can't bring you back.

Final layer blown hard by frigid air,
so solid, that if someone were to step out onto it, 
they might fall through in implosion.

I am numb, there is no other word to describe it, Dad,
no other word does justice to this lack of sensation.
I'm looking at you in the casket,
great American flag cocooning the mahogany,
thinking nothing, feeling nothing, but this pain 
that seems to well up in my chest every now and again,
and overflow like last night's bathwater.
"He hardly looks like Bill," I hear the whispers
nobody thinks I can hear, the cautious comments
made from behind finger covered hands,
"So sad to lose him so young, such a waste."
These words do not affect me, 
but instead drift over me, like dust. 
I never thought you'd actually die, Daddy -- 
you seemed too full of life to ever be empty.
Your body in the coffin, the minister speaks.
I do not hear him. I hold mom as she cries, 
I comfort my sister. I hold Paul in my arms,
and somehow, I hold myself together.

Pure in intention,
white inevitably turns to gray, 
as the guilt of the forgetting begins.

Mom sold the house today, Dad.
I don't think I've ever felt such melancholy in my life.
It was as if she doesn't want to remember you anymore.
perhaps it's too painful for her, I see you in everything here:
on the dock, net in hand, trying to catch the elusive blue crab --
by the piano listening to Kelly play a song for the seventeenth time --
on that chair, with little hair left, bottle of morphine by your side.
I still hear your voice here, I still expect
your car to pull up in the drive, your footsteps on the walk,
your hello from the front door. . .
We will try to forget you now,
this house sold,
this door to our family history at a close.

Ultimately, thaw will melt sadness 
into pools of slush until nothing remains
but tufts of grass,
the memory of the storm,
and of the warm autumn days before it.

I don't know when it happened, Dad,
but somehow the pain has lessened--
It has drifted off, ebbed day by day,

I dreamt of you again last night. 
You were healthy, I was young and on that old tire swing,
the one you put up in New Hope when we were children.
I asked you to push me, and you did, "Higher, Daddy, higher!"
I flew through the low blue sky, pumped my feet like you taught me
and stretched them out in front of me, as thought I could touch the clouds.
You were smiling, I was laughing, and autumn leaves were falling . . .

The bus pulls into its stop
I close the book and think--

here is a poem that speaks of loss.

Second Place
Bad Night at Haiphong
by Tammy Turner Peadon

Two klics outside the port city, thick
underbrush hid clusters of olive clad
kids, bellies flat against slick earth
wet with mud and blood. Days here went

fast into night, and when dark came,
you prayed for light. Nights were bad,
you listened with strained ears through
a din of strange sounds, for sounds that

were stranger still. Most times, constant
fear kept you awake in apprehension, like the
mummy did in the fifth grade; trembling in
your G.I. Joe sleeping bag on Timmy McPherson's

living room floor. None of us knew scared like
this, but we all caught on real quick. Our
backyard battle plans and monster movie
anecdotes didn't apply in this show. By the

second night in the bush, we had all lost faith
in Hollywood. Somebody forgot to yell cut so
the stand-ins could take their places. It all
made you wonder what Audie was singing about.

Sometimes, you imagined that you smelled fish sauce,
heavy, oily; the sour odor of charlies with full
bellies. Ready to hunt all night on papered feet,
mute yellow draculas with a taste for cold blood.

Every now and then we got lucky, and the point man
would hear the low squeak of black silk bat wings
in time to thwart the midnight buffet. But most times
we weren't lucky, and some of us joined the army of
the undead; coming back to feast within the nightmares

of the rest of us. And we wondered what G.I. Joe
might do on a bad night in Haiphong, where the matinee
horrors were real, and none of us could find the
zippers down the backs of the monster suits.

Third Place
it ends with paper it began with hair and silk
by Richard Zola

i've touched seen tasted
all of your skin
i've seen you lie
i've seen you standing
among trees in half light
waiting for a reason
to weave flowers between your legs
and today i read your letter:
parallel lines on unlined paper
(i remember you standing
your back to light
your face not visible
only your body through
cotton and silk)
you're living now in minnesota
with an accountant
a tall man who knows about antelopes
and maps
and you cook the fish he brings
on saturdays
there are lines on your belly
and you wear glasses to read
you can see industry
from your high window
and you won't return to england
you're writing this letter
at 2.30pm
alone in the house until 7
you don't wear bracelets now
and only 1 ring
you know my address is the same
and hope that the voodoo girl is dead
until today you kept the words i wrote
in that pewter box from brighton
today the stove has them
and the box sank quickly
(i remember you naked at 3am
in that room on montrell road
- gas pipes and dirty pans -
searching for candles
and no money for the meter)
you hear me still in english phrases
and in fields through a windshield
you've asked a priest for absolution
and you're writing this letter
(remember your head bent over paper
in that room with icons on the wall
and hanging plants touching)
across my face
and signing it across my mouth
i'll read your letter again today
and tomorrow and at night
when there's snow
this one page:
parallel lines on unlined paper
no address

Honorable Mention
The Morning of My Madness Waking
by Jim Zola
Melic Roundtable

What's left? Maybe some trees on a hillside or the sudden tufts 
of seedy grass where your wanting arms, your lost in the world feet 

might be. I have forgotten the names of the trees. Broadleaf grin, burred 
twig dance, maker of saplings. What's left? Some trees, a hillside. 

No philosophizing, please. Vodka is given us to be drunk, sturgeon 
to be eaten, women to be visited. Snow to be walked upon. 

For one evening anyway, I want to forget you are the ring 
in my ear, the morning's cough, the dense flour of deepest sleep. 

I wake and call for you. You are the new crease in my right palm, 
the itch below my knee, the world turned inside out, my reckless heart. 

I pull on socks, shoes. Beneath each layer is another. Madness 
wears the thinnest cloth. What's left? Dying and singing. Some trees.

Honorable Mention
by Jim Bennett

like Orwell's crumbs
the disturbed dust moves from
one surface to another
marking time in textured

it covers all the people here as well

the room is cleaned,
the smells masked,
but the dirt is organic
it moves away from dusters
and vacuum heads
escaping to hang
in bars of light
and rest on people.

perhaps this is new dust
perhaps there is more dust here
because skin is dryer
hair looser, more fragile,
in this made up place
than outside
where time still moves
in an understood way

I run my finger along
the dark oak mantelpiece
disturb a million lives
and learn to measure time
as the space between breaths

Honorable Mention
Some Things are Easier
by Mary Edna Salvi
Callahan's Saloon

I walk around naked 
these clothes don't hide 
a thing 
I'd rather show 
tits and ass 
than have you see 
my feelings 
and never give a damn

Honorable Mention
The Spinning Wheel
by Steve Phillips

It revolves, and makes a soothing
sound that evokes the winds of autumn
grieving for the child whose path is twisted,
whose troubled silence speaks fear.
Gandhi listened for a time
and felt the colors of his faith
revolving too, entwining there
among threadbare longings, gaining
silence from the spinning whispers.
Patience is almost gentle in his heart
as the thread of time emerges
continuous, eternal,
graceful and serene.
And this thread is our connection
to the majestic light of stars
which still shine in Mahatma's eyes
while he sits, humming softly,
singing the wheel around.

Honorable Mention
Horse Trader
by Jennifer Jenkins


I was one of those little girls that wanted a pony,
not because I became mesmerized by Liz Taylor
or needed a Flicka friend, but because ponies had long hair,
all down the neck and out the back. That's how they came
and went, with not a thought of stalling to tape their bangs.
They see through fringe to check for limits and find
no God in the eyes or Devil in the mouth.


Have a pony, chilled gold to fit full inside my dainty grip.
The opening seemed to bridle my nibbling lips.
The guys fisted their Shlitz while we girls buried
our aperitif beers under our hair until the males malted
our way, then we'd whip our pony tails, rim our collarbones
and grin for auction.


I'm full and past bolting. Reined and ridden and snorting still.
Don't brush against me, I command within steam.
I've nodded and neighed, nostrils 
are full of foal that hooves for breath.
Broken, I stirrup and rear my spindly child,
her mane as wet as mine.

Honorable Mention
Newton's Law
by Snow White
Enter the Muse

And he sang me to sleep...
A sweet warmth of words 
comfortably embracing me.
Sleep like a Godsend,
Him my one-night idol.
Goldy Locks with
"parsley, sage, rosemary, and..."
Time slipping through my fingers
like the sun peering through the curtains.
I closed my eyes before 
reality could pierce my mind.
His soft voice gently echoing 
as I fell...
To quickly,
once again,
in love.
I fell off my bike.
Me, a twenty-one year old, hitting pavement
like a six year-old just learning to ride.
A twenty-one year old trying to learn to ride again.
Because I used to be able to do this
without any hands,
any hurts,
any expectations,
I could fly.
But, instead I fell.
My angelic wings clipped
Newton's Law proven once again.
Gravity is twice as strong
when falling from Heaven.
But, he sang like Irish Angels.
And, he sang like my father once did.
And, he sang like he was alone in his car.
He sang like I was the only person who had ever heard.
And, he sang like I would if I were staring at the face of God.
And, he sang like I had always wanted
to... me.
He sang and I fell.
My dominoes of requirements and desires
cascading like my hair across his chest.
My dominoes exhausted from standing
so goddamned long.
My dominoes, like our bodies laying against each other
finally able to touch something,
feel something.
He sang and I fell asleep.
As if sleep were real and 
real a dream.
Sleep like a wake-up call from the hotel front desk.
Sleep like nap-time in a daycare.
A twenty-one year old fighting a early bedtime.
Because sleep isn't necessary when 
you are old enough to drink coffee.
And, sleep is an ending,
And, I am searching for beginnings.
I am searching for new doors 
in old hallways.
I am searching for my training wheels.
I am searching for a way to rejuvenate my wings.
I am searching for a new set of dominoes.
I am searching for a way to prove
Sir Fucking Isaac Newton wrong.
I am searching for someone 
to sing me to sleep,
their soft voice gently echoing as I fall...
And, their arms to be there instead of 
the pavement.

Honorable Mention
by David Anthony

I think I'll write a triolette--
but does it rhyme with get or gay?
I'm ignorant I know, and yet
I think I'll write a triolette
that rhymes with gay--or else with get.
(Who gives a toss whichever way?)
I think I'll write a triolette--
but does it rhyme with get or gay?

August 2001
Judge Harvey Stanbrough

First Place
Insubstantial Air
by Janet Kenny
Wild Poetry

It was no accident we wandered here, 
away from suburbs and from traffic din, 
we needed to be somewhere free to clear 
the dust and doldrums that remained within. 

The sweet vivacity of birds in heath 
land high above the sea as sky was wide, 
while quails in coveys bumbled round our feet, 
and sunlit, straight escarpments on each side 

proclaimed our isolation from the great 
metropolis, that seemed so out of place, 
like some Atlantis that might disappear 
without a noise and leaving not a trace. 

Incredible the silence and the vast 
expanse of air, like Prospero's desmesne, 
all insubstantial moving light that clasped 
each image and refracted it again. 

And we felt no surprise when downward came 
transparent parachutes in graceful fall 
from out the belly of an ancient plane, 
illuminated beings held in thrall 

by Prospero's enchantment, captive ghosts 
that floated slowly down till hid from view 
and the surrounding dreamscape of the coast 
forgot the aeroplane and floating crew. 

Below the cliffs the water came and went 
in lacey patterns overlapping those 
that came before, incessantly intent 
on black and white kaleidoscopic shows. 

Our need for earth's connection is so strong 
we sicken if deprived of wilderness, 
and if we stew in cities for too long 
we dwindle to adapt to our address. 
Wizened homunculi we all forget 
our ancestors emerged from out the wet; 
and fire and ice will each suffice, says Frost. 
We gained our cities but the rest is lost.

Second Place
Return of the Currawongs
by Janet Kenny
Wild Poetry

Out of the sea-fog currawongs came back 
after an absence in the mountains; great 
black clanging birds, they sought clear air 
and found my bird table with smaller birds 
assembled, as yet unaware that fate 
had ended their security. I heard 
the trumpet tones and matched responses, 
saw the dark shapes in the branches 
and more swooping through the sky; 
uproarious jubilation ringing high, 
they celebrated their return to where 
they fed last spring and summer. Here 
they now could rear their hungry young 
until, as hoodlum birds the youngsters soar 
to mountain forests to absorb the law.

Third Place
In the Summer
by Ani Gjika

Mom and Dad walk around the house 
in underwear. Someone rings the doorbell;
I have to drag them by the hand 
into their bedroom then open the door myself, 
or else they'll answer it like that,
because, as they say, this is summer,
whoever it is, they'll understand. 

I go to sleep. Midnight has stepped in 
the room before me. The light is off. 
I do not turn it on, only approach the window 
and close it. A foot or two outside, 
through the black branches, 
a single yellow eye flickers- 
July firefly. 

I am five years old. The day 100 degrees. 
The bus packed with people, no air 
conditioning, more people standing 
shoulder to shoulder than people sitting. 
A gypsy pulls out her brown breast to feed the baby
on her lap, her nipple so dark and wide, 
I swear, whoever sees her now feels none 
of the weather's heat or the crush. 

We are all kids of the same age.
Every year we end school at the same time 
and hang out together like an army, every night.
Lana is a dirty river that crosses through 
our town. We often play on its banks or cross 
it back and forth, and tonight playing hide and seek
I go with a boy into a bunker near the river. 
You know, he says, we shouldn't hide 
here, see the sign, it says "Danger!" I see a skull 
drawn on the wall and two bones crossed 
above it and though I've heard people talk 
of someone living in here, I take his hand and say, 
it's ok, we'll only sneak as far as the entrance, 
not too deep in and at least here 
no one will come to look for us. 

There she is, ripe, out of Botticelli's world, 
aware now that this is the summer 
when she finally shows off the woman 
she's opened into; her broad perfect shoulders 
and that slender waist! She shakes her head 
to get rid of the water in her ears then glances 
down the way young girls do to check for changes 
in their breast size every hour and there it is, 
the perfect imperfection, the wave has pulled 
down her top and her left breast peeks out. 

June, July, August. 
All the people have left 
their cars, their jobs, their houses 
and have come out together walking 
on the boulevard, up and down, telling stories,
chasing after their children, chasing their dogs, 
holding hands, kissing, waving hello. 
June, July, August. 
In Albania, late in the afternoon, 
boulevards fill with the voices and laughter 
of the young and old walking in pairs, groups, 
holding hands. June, July, August. 

He sits in front of her, 
a fan between them turns its head 
slowly back and forth. He speaks to her, says, I love 
your summer shoulders bare like this, I love 
your hair down on your shoulders, I love 
your sitting before me and this fan between us 
that pulls my words from this end of the room 
and blows their bubbles out toward you. 
And when he finally whispers, I love 
you, in his lowest voice, the fan multiplies 
the words inside its cage and blows 
them out filling her room. 

A tiny fly lies frozen inside an ice cube 
I just picked to put in my glass of water, trapped 
the way an entire city is trapped inside the glass, 
in those novelty Christmas snowballs sold 
for $10 to $20 each. I sit for a minute 
wondering if I should use this ice cube 
or if it's sacred, a sort of tomb 
for this insignificance. In the end
I stick it deep into the white beard growing
from the freezer and get another for my water. 

Christy, a fair blonde with thin hair, 
goes to the market with her mom 
to buy tomatoes. 
In the afternoon her face looks slapped 
a dozen times. Two days later, 
her forehead starts peeling to her scalp. 
Johnny, the bully from our building, chases her
leper, leper, I'll tell them all I saw your pepper 
if you don't let me kiss your salmon forehead. 

The radio plays a hurried version 
of "Summertime." He turns, 
glances at her cotton shorts, looks 
at the high road rising toward the sunset, 
pulls over, turns off the car and they start driving 
at a different speed toward another sky. 

Honorable Mention
by Brian Long

An hour since turning in, and now: lightning, 
a long biding of time in the flashes, thunder. 
Beside me, you are fever and dream, you are 
rooms hollow as tumbled shells, and the hush 

of oceans within. You are slow, quiet tides 
of breathing. Light: one, two, three, 
thunder. Beneath the cover my hand 
lies at the narrows of your forearm, 

at scars softer than the skin before. I trace 
the length of mending layers, press warm, blue 
pulses, remember a month's past and the drumming 
of a thick rain, the black beat of the blades, 

and the wet hiss of streetspray ghosts. 
I remember the haunt of the siren, and later, 
ink: the spelling of our son's name on the curve 
of gauze circling your wrist, holding you in, 

lest you forget. Light: one, two, thunder. 
Lest you forget again, ever. There is a whispering 
at the doorway, there is a wisp and a rustling 
on the stair. Light: one, thunder. This thing,
it comes only at night, only in storms. 

Light, light, thunder.

Honorable Mention
The Pursuit of Light
by Laurel K. Dodge
Melic Roundtable

Junebug, it's late July; you're on your back. 
I watch you writhe like clockwork inching 
round and round, a chunk of amber measuring 
time in a slow tortured circle. You bumped 

and buzzed the porch light last night, spent 
yourself on the empty pursuit of an artificial 
moon. What drove you to waste your wings 
banging your head against illumination? 

It's dawn now; you've lost your flight. 
Your legs wriggle, reach for twigs and leaves 
and dirt; all you grab is air. I tip you right 
side up; propped on wobbly legs like a newborn 

calf learning how to stand, you waver, flip 
back over to spin the perimeter of your end. 
I meant no harm in the small mercy offered, 
never intended to interrupt the mechanism 

or tamper with the precision of your death. 
The sun crawls into the sky. Your revolutions 
slow like a watch winding down; the second 
hand hestitates, and you stop. I sweep 

your carapace from the step with the tattered 
kites of moths and the sarcophagus of a cicada. 
My pulse bumps and buzzes in my throat. Junebug, 
is your tiny death any less significant than mine? 

September 2001
Judge Joan Houlihan

First Place
The Nude
by Eric Williams

Each course attempts to prepare us for the nude,
that summation of shape and shadow, that end various
and typical, reclining on a threadbare chaise. 
We sketched inverted vessels, recorded the face
of the passenger opposite and commended it to practice,
focused long on the rose's locus, its fleshy unfurling of 
gradation and purpose. More, we imagined paradox
to heighten vision: the point without plane, an airborne orb
rotating both ways, a line that begins in the palm and extends 
forever. Steadiest of laymen, schooled in perspective
and media option, we assume our smocks and ring the dais.
Some vantages are better than others, the subject's tones 
prove more vivid when glimpsed from this angle, 
or this. Then he enters the center, lets fall
a robe piped in crimson and eggshell, lays down 
as one's lover might after a hard day's work.
There are the familiar flushes, the long-drawn
cones and closed arenas, our stranger subject with finger 
stilled, mid-strum, on his stomach. Striations,
downy arcs, sheens more subtle than marble or petal,
surfaces woven of light and agate, ores elastic, 
oil and water. We reduce him in the first instant
of our reckoning, assign the simplest archetypes
to his frame. Suggestive waves and ribs to be filled 
spread over the canvas. Beyond the rudimentary cues,
the tilts and pivots most coarsely conveyed, are details,
the amateur's test. Whatever is asked of the body 
is answered, layer by layer; each asserts, in succession,
you are closer to my name. No other theme upheld
for scrutiny so compels us to touch it, no other image 
on late afternoons reverberates with the secrets:
no love is objective, to realize is love.
We might make it an abstract, we are tempted 
to press the innocence from us because we are falling
headfirst into him. His nudity strips us of distance and
limit, it serves as the glass for attentive students of spirit 
and body, the boggling intertwine. Beneath that sensitive
fabric fitted to him, beneath the visible film
is another, another still, infinite material intimacy tied 
to the pulse and desire to gaze past the barrier, to where
we are pattern, radical enumeration, color and music,
history flowering in vaporized crystal and silk. 
Anonymity unique, always outward flowering and echoing
back, interior flux to expression and quicksilver utterance,
return, like a gift. And what of the scholar driven to tip 
his eye into empty air, as does the model? There
the palpable mystery, electric, swimming envelopment
and network upheld. We are joined inextricably, each 
of us. To see is to reveal. To render, respond in kind.

Second Place
Harlem Psalm
by Kemel Zaldivar
Melic Roundtable

Let us bless the shadowed minds
who've kept me fed & lit & swift.
Hustlers and shorties leapfrogging

Satan for a quick dip in forever's
fun stye. Nathan, subtle prince,
who blew back bullets with a clean

heave. Helen in white silk, teaching
my vision the cold visions of moon.
Osiris, underneath, suturing quilts

of frazzled hells so that dogs, worms,
birds, awake with saints in the belly!
Let us bless Carmen. Her magic dust

fanned the hot dreams; Myrtle, never
stooping, dancing for weeks to my
drowsy whispers; bless her babies,

Clem and Kip, soiling fat fingers in
Mommy's deep purse. Their love lives,
baffles your book. Damnit I choked

and they rushed tight hugs; I was
naked and they draped hot robes,
I was hot and they flapped long

towels; I was dead and they floured
my bones. I'll bless the hoodlums,
clockers, thieves, gave me shelter

when my brothers slammed doors;
the low-life, pretty sluts conjuring
sanctity from junkie sleep. In them,

I tremble holy and never blot. In them,
my blackest curse is washed in quick
fever, lit to a loud and lingering hymn.

Third Place
by Ankush Sachdeva
Critical Poet

I can smell the flavors of your neck
in this creel of codfish.

You thumbed the fish
till its bones crumbled,
piece by piece,
gills garnished your wrists
like ousted confetti.

Supper revolved around
the pungency of Madras Curry.

Somewhere, in the handcrushed
garlic or Origello spice,
I can taste all the things
that you touched today.

Honorable Mention
Roll Another One
by Shann Palmer

that stone isn't big enough,
have you seen his followers?
Possessed, everyone of them;
not a clear eye in the bunch.

It's a martyr they'll be looking for,
selling bones, blessings, or curses,
it was a hasty burial, but that shroud!
Smooth as Lydian cloth- expensive.

Any leaks and the smell will get you,
your food be leaving one way or the other
for the dogs, I put attar on my lips
camphor keeps away the flies.

I hate these people, their vengeful god,
another year and I'll see Rome again.
I don't even know who to look out for,
the priests might come, they have schemes.

Take watch tonight, it's their Sabbatum,
the Hebrews won't venture far, it's a holy time.
I'm experienced, I'll take tomorrow night,
though I doubt anything will happen.

Honorable Mention
The Power of Glucose Invented
by Porcupine Smith

It seems
So crucial
So critical
So God awful urgent
And then She...
Lets you
And then She...
Gives you
And in that moment
Immediately after
The only thing
In the world
That matters
Is Art
And Poetry
Is again
The most important
And crucial
Of things
Half an hour
The invert sugars
In the blood
Start to again
Feed the brain
And slowly
But surely
All that She has
Starts to again
Of inordinate
And monumental
The Power
Of Glucose

Honorable Mention
by Carole Barley
Wild Poetry

Seemingly endless, this August rain,
fashioning rats-tails and the scent
of electricity in treacle-humid air.
The wipers flail, damp palms finger
gearstick with some smiled upon urgency;
Interior windows misted.

You say you do not care for warm rain;
I see a kneeling in ocean scented grass.
Thigh inside thigh, rivulets rounding
shoulder, growing heavy; slowing,
crazing down the switchback of your arm.

I do not care for gray myself,
prefer the terror of cumulonimbus uncertainty.
Touchpaper, flint.
Counting the seconds to myself
between the flash and the thunder.

Honorable Mention
Out of Thin Air
by Mitchell Metz
Melic Roundtable

Pitons packed, I amble mesas, 
inch foothills. Altitudes 

ahead of me 
earnest Boy Scouts foot it up 

for merit badges, eagledom -- 
the easy aeries 

of the untempted. 
They're goddam Galahads 

with ropes 
and I some footsore Lancelot. 
My grail? A nap 

at base camp. A glass of wine 
with Gwen. Oxygen. Grace 

from those I, 
in mastering foe, failed. 

My grieves are scarred, 
mail heavy, linked 

like an imposed ontology 
I can't grasp 

yet bear ever up. 
All seems steep, sheer. Extreme 

exposure ain't the thrill 
it used to be -- 

or is, and I am not the man. 

So belay me, baby, 
down I go. 

Or shall we strip 
clean, cache our gear 

for pilgrims to come, 
fire our faith 
with fingertips in crevices, 

end it with a free climb?

Honorable Mention
Freewrite on Catfish and Nectarines
by Banshee
Enter the Muse

The sixth bone she saves for luck; 
puts it behind her ear and watches 
the children suck on nectarines. 
She struck them before, beat them 
until they bleated like little pigs. 
Now she cannot help but love them, 
even when she is hating them, 
even as they wait for the electricity 
to be shut off. 

Her fingers are so nervous, 
she wants to push her nails into 
the children's skin and pop 
them open like bruises, suck out 
their love and send them away. 

She has fried the last catfish 
and laid open the icebox looking 
for pickles and a few sour cherries. 
After this, there will be nothing 
but peanut butter until Thursday, 
when the check will be divided 
and divided again; 
rationed out in coupon-deals 
and fall-apart-shoes. 

The sixth bone she saves for luck, 
flicks the ash on the end of the last 
menthol slim and wonders 
what she did to deserve a cold house, 
tearful babies, and no man in sight.

Honorable Mention
Woods of the Watermen
by Tony Smith
Sharpened Word

Only that we had water
did we have wooden boats

that split the wet whips in gale
like a maul on autumn cord,

vessels that spread seas
with the diesel of winter,

fished moon to moon
on the turn of the osprey

and worn, filled empty basins
with the salt of their boards.

So we axed one after another -
ripped, planed, formed the planks

until the pop of a poplar knot
bottomed the forest

that reflects now in the shine
of a fiberglass hull.

Honorable Mention
In You
by Allen Clark
Atlantic Unbound

I can see what stuff shadows are made of, 
And how clay can become a kind of light, 
How I'm like a fish who can't not swim 
Into a world where the seagrass is swirling 
When you lift up your arms on a hot day, 
Feel in you the raw green of a plant 
Being changed to heat in an oven of blood, 
What lies not awake, not asleep inside 
The shell of another day promising 
All of itself to no pearl expectations, 
Smell in your animal, the flower 
My tongue is poet of, the instant its tastes 
Are lavish enough by creed to taste you. 
You're the dictionary of my senses un-spelled 
As kisses, a rote freedom the sky gathers 
As the feathers of a bird, to spill wind from 
When its eyes behold, to gather by law 
What no one else could ever see: scales 
Of brief rainbows and the world's creation. 

October 2001
Judge Joan Houlihan

First Place
Opposable Thumbs are Important
by Angela Armitage

When she opened her mouth, only a tongue came out.
They had expected fire engines, or maggots, or little
frogs with hooked teeth. Only a tongue, sadly, and all

it did was wiggle around. The stars hung slugged,
acting neither cowardly nor special. The gaseous
things refused to even blink or shoot because stars don't

really do that sort of thing. The dirt didn't suction and
swallow pumas or skyscrapers. Everything stood as it
should be, indifferent to her perfectly human, though

delicious, kisses. This surprised them, and several hands
were thrown protectively above heads as though bombs
or boulders would drop. But none fell. One woman fainted

and the prostration wasn't significant because she soon woke,
scraped and muttering ouches. This disturbed the fellows,
so they grabbed themselves reassuringly. Yes, still present.

Yes, still stiff. But then they remembered that it was only
their hands and her tongue, not some catastrophic Gwinevere.
The throng cried. It was quite romantic of them (her

tongue still milled about), but there were no rivers of tears
or hearts pierced with tiny daggers. After the kiss, they
said goodnight. Everyone returned to work in the morning.

Second Place
Milosov's Bumblebees
by Jim Zola
The Writer's Block

Bats in the belfry, bats in the belfry.
The chant from children I don't see
rings outside my window.  By night
the bat comes back, settles in
between screen and pane. I give it a name.

Who is the dictator of madness and not?
Who deems the incongruent muddled enough? I smile
when I ask. I had a wife and children once.

Bees fill a hole in my backyard,
their sudden home. One day it's safe,
the next they swarm. They sting the dog.
At dusk I sneak with gasoline,
boiling water. Smoke the fuckers out.
These are not gentle bumblebees.

Night by night I fill the hole.
Nothing around it is living.
But the bees survive. I stay inside.

I listen. The children are back.
I press my ear tight against glass.
What are they singing? A song for the end
of the world. There will be no other.

Third Place
The Ponderous Galapagos Turtle
by Charles Levenstein
Wild Poetry

The ponderous Galapagos turtle
lies on his belly,
munches greens,
contemplates time,
how wondrous it seems:
When I was a youth
did I stand on my feet,
arms akimbo?
Did I despise my fat parents
and the rocks from which they came?
Was I a boy preoccupied with copulation?
Did I join up to save the nation?
Did I develop a sneer?
Did I know why I was here?

Of course not.
Turtles don't go on the road,
we enjoy our isle,
reproduce in a pile,
then eat a lot,
or as much as we can get.
Kelp's not boring,
plenty to do right here
without running off.
Poor humans with their cameras.
And the wheel.
And the sail.
And fire, of course.
They start out stupid and must be tended,
rear ends wiped, clothing mended.
At twenty, though, they know
everything there is to know.
Time seems slow on my Galapago.
I swim, I think,
I have another drink.

Thus spake the turtle,
beached on his belly.
Time has not made him particularly wise
and he's become too tough to eat.

Honorable Mention
Don't You Wanna Take a Ride With Me?
by Deborah Corazon
Post Poem

Come on up,
wanna take a ride with me?
Yes you. (I write in a sexy smile)
I saw you
giving me the eye.
(oh my oh my)
Am I delighted 
to have chanced this way

The afternoon is looking good....
I am in control
with young and handsome
written in for the duration;
imagination is running
at breakneck speed
(I like it fast).

Wrap yourself around me
(I write)
and hang on tight
you are in for
the ride
of your life.

My fingers fly as we
round curve after curve
laughter reins free
as we scream
More more more....
But suddenly I am more than aware
of your body pressed
against mine.
(whew it sure is hot in here)

Wait where were we going?
I seem to have lost track
of the road
it doesn't seem to matter any more
as your hands are roaming
curves on their own
(I don't remember 
writing this....)

...the scent of you, right here
behind your ear,
the taste of your neck
pure exquisite.
My fingers explore
and oh I do adore
your lack of attire.
her blouse I let fly)
I have made my way
mi hermosa, to your belt 
made of snake
mmmmm what I would do 
to you, if you would just
apply the brake.
hold up...
Pull up I tell you,
give the keyboard back to me.
(when did I say that you 
could type?)

You really
can't take me
(I have to be home by 5:00).
This is 
just a poem 
and we are very near

Honorable Mention
by Sonneshein

I cannot say I wasn't touched.
I was. 
Really, I was.
My face exploded with my own wet salt
With every glimpse of newsprint.
Every time the songs broke on the radio,
I dreaded the next words, 
My heart bound in a painful pause,

I almost tattooed a half-masted flag
On my right calf,
Just so I'd feel something real, 
So I'd snap out of the notion
That it was all a marathon nightmare,
And feel.
Really feel.

Like the orphaned child
Whose teacher kept him after the evacuation 
Of schools, waiting for his parents to show.
Like the New Bedford firefighters
Who boarded the train to New York the day I left
For Texas,
On their way to "do their duty". 
To climb through human rubble,
Hoping to find anything,
That might make someone smile,
Anything that wasn't 
Teeth and hair and crushed cement girders,
Bone and blood and stench.
Like the thousands of families,
The thousands of friends
Of the thousands of victims.

I wanted the pain for them.
I wanted to pierce my skin
So I could hurt in the name of the people 
Who didn't have the choice.

But just like I didn't go 
To New York 
And climb around on bent rafters,
Gas mask pressed to my face, 
Collecting sadness in a giant black plastic bag,
Like all of the better men and women who did,
Without regard for their lungs or their minds or
The possibility of more collapse-

I didn't go 
To the tattoo parlor 
And sit in the sterile chair in the sterile room
With a sterile look on my face and no tears
While a strange, multi-colored man 
Drew a permanent picture on my flesh.

I didn't do it 
Because I didn't have the money,
But the people who it would have been for
Don't know that.
All they know, if they can see me 
From where they are,
Is that I didn't do it.
I sat in my safe little house,
On my safe little island
Where nobody was dying,
And the air was not thick with smoke and the odor of human decay,
And all of the families were as intact 
As they had been a week before,
And I watched it unfold on television 
And I did 

November 2001
Judge Joan Houlihan

First Place
Sailor, Doctor These Dreams
by Hannah Craig
The Sharpened Word

Hip-high, the shrugged waters beat and ebb,
stopped from retreat by six inches of ice.
And you among the dead, pull wounded
free of sloes and muck, send breath
into the empty shallow bowls.
Nurses beg you to fall back as soldiers
lift from bank to bank.

Your wife dips her thumb into Kvasir's brass mug,
says your gray name into the corners of the room
where it hangs and echoes back.
Verdenal. Verdenal. Mieux vaut tard que jamais.
Will she wait in the lobby to forgive your passion
or return by boat, blown with the fine dust of grief?

Better you should fall by way of Lisbon bulls,
by Spanish whores who fawn and fatten
on culls of cheese and beads of wine.
Better even by the sea with salt crystals in your hair,
with sun and his hand upon your back,
touching in secret. A cloth goes up between you;
but beneath, around and through,
the moth-worried yarn gives way to touch.

The butterflies have eaten through the blinds,
through winter wool, kept habits, wedding shifts
and winding cloth. You remember Munich
in May, multivoltine swallowtails unfolding
from the cherry trees. Pupae whispered distress,
caught between bodies. He held your head
and cried with southern slur, one vowel
into your mouth.

In Starnbergersee, a Seneca nun gave daily readings
of the bones and wrists, the shapes of souls,
bronze whispers of bound spirits. "Don't ask,"
she said so darkly, as the bones tumbled
against rock-tanned sinew. "You vanish both.
You are not immortal. Love is an affliction,
how the spirit moves in venial recrimination.
Give me a dime."

On mine-landing your body opens, spread by shrapnel,
and a ghost emerges wet onto the battlefield.
The red moon is too cold to dry wings, too weak
to spread and burn patterns onto limbs. You call a name
but he cannot hear. Miles away he sinks down
with his poetry. Will he examine every star tonight
for the one that you touch too, the one that guides
between smoke and flame?

Second Place
Gua-pa-Cha Fractals
by Barbara Lee
Melic Roundtable

The Julia Set: the interface between 
escaping and cycling points. 

Hold the down beat, one; 
if she unpins her hair, play poker 

with the axis,  two-three;
rotate your left heel 
on Mandelbrot's theory, plot 
ornaments on a strand, mark 

how it coils, syncopates 
four and one 
in incalculable iterations. Break 

mirror desire's punishment 
cycling in infinite variety between two and three. 

Julia is what every woman is, 
an imaginary number 
coming into being somewhere off stage. 

Third Place
by Joseph Carcel

1. Halvah Girl

My halvah girl, with sweet apocalypse
and almond eyes, wrapped round my kindled soul
bids that I savor honey sesame.
I call her with my heated kisses and,

a taunting mockingbird, she trills.
I'm more and less than what you want of me
my sugars grown as rich as marzipan.

2. In the Watermelon Pavilion

Her lies could fill
museums of endless halls,
in each a single guide
to shade the friction
of her wit. Here is

the watermelon pavilion,
that soothes with shades of green
and woman's oils. A helmut carapace
shields all that's soft. Run
your hand across the servile curves but know

The grass is not immune to pissing dogs.

3. Imam

Creped in his final black

and sipping a horchata,
the giant, though friend of labials,
posits metaphysical punishments.

He shudders to reveal them
by transiting electron, fearing
that the the FBI confuse
his good intentions

with mere free speech.
Meet him on the street, though, and he'll share
his wisdom over a tamal(e) and corona beer;
no email would suffice

to explicate what dances in his brain,
of severance and dentistry
reserved for the gangly man who limps,
lips farting bogus fatwa.

4. The prom

no time to cry
hello or say
that sky is fallen,
the chickens peck
out wishing seeds.

darkened in their shadows,
trees no longer reaching
water or for sun,
their wood creaks
into kindling.

lonely moisture rises into steam,
dancers swirl through bare
ripped gowns that float above
unnoted ballrooms, creped gymnasiums.

5. Physics

I sit upon the carved stump
of what's left of chaos, filled with joy's
contempt for meandering complexity, a throne
from which eyes can meander,
across the plain, out
to the horizon
where the boats
fall off.

6. Two Sarahs

Talk to the two girls named Sarah.
Tell them you'll take them

to Lake Cuomo,
even though you know
there's no such place

except in their romantic
minds. Tell them yes
of course to their every query

you'll find that at least
one of them won't mind
that you tell them anything
to please them, set
their waters flowing
like waves that press for your saving

shore, hugging
to your contours,
seeking ships of any flag.

My heart has always burned to whiter heat
but such combustion
has made it small.

Honorable Mention
Nicasio Hills
by Sharron Egan Belson
Rabbit Hole

They are out there
I have seen them
I see them now
in my mind

They are all around me
like large lazy animals
like odalisques lying on their sides
in the golden sun

My urge is to run to them
these wide Sendak hills
to embrace them, grinning
like a toddler.

To remain among them 
through the hours
and the seasons.
To become them.

Yet I am but a small
insect in their swaying grasses
And they, with their black
and white cows

Are forever.

Honorable Mention
by Janet Kenny

This morning as I made coffee
I realised that I can trace 
my life through coffee. I recall
my timid mother serving coffee
to my father's grand relations.

Even then I sensed her pain
as they poured their insincere 
praise. "May," (she hated being called that)
"always makes such first class coffee".
The tall white pot's long slender spout
spewed forth a pale repulsive liquid
made from essence in a bottle.
"It's the chicory. That's the secret",
said my proud tea-drinking father.
I was three but even then
I knew unhappiness when I saw it.

Coffee-shops swept student life
into a caffeine-sodden world
where jazz and painting, 
sex and daring, all required
the aid of coffee.

Next my Viennese friends taught me, 
always grind your coffee freshly.
Wooden grinder clamped between 
my knees I calmly turned my prayer wheel's 
handle. I had joined the chosen 
few who always ground fresh beans.
Blue Mountain beans were cheaper then
so long ago in quiet New Zealand.

In London where decent coffee
never reached outside of Soho.
Our electric grinder whizzed
our morning brew of desperation.

My Italian friend instructed
me in how to order coffee.
"Un buon caffè, proprio un buon
caffè" I never dared insult
the man behind the coffee bar,
I trusted him to make
a fragrant frothy concentrated
brew. Her angry accusation
seemed to me a mark of deep mistrust.
I found these men were proud
of what they did and never
needed threats.

Now in Sydney, morning silence
makes me use a vacuum pack of
arabica fine-ground coffee. 
Grinders spoil my meditation. 
Birds and coffee are my morning. 
Little sealed packs in the freezer, 
taste the same and leave me silence. 
Outside metal grinds on metal,
as the world impacts and hammers
threatens and erodes its surface.
Morning coffee with the birds
and sunshine makes me think of days
when mother's insecurity
was emphasised by gimlet eyes
of condescending relatives
and now I understand and love.

Honorable Mention
Trench Coats & French Toast
by PJ Nights

We blow smoke signals across
your rusty Delta 88
in exhaled tokes of winter air.
Frost fingers creep up my
bare legs and crystallize curls
wet with morning sweat.

Smells of slung hash leak from
the chrome diner. My coat echoes
caresses as I sashay past
regulars on silver swivel stools.
Smudged mascara and
puffy lips - a jukebox mocks,
swallows my two-bits
for an Elvis serenade.

We thaw with gulps of French toast
and steam over chipped mugs.
Trapped in my trench coat,
tributaries of sweat join
in rivers between my breasts,
pool my belly button only to spill
over in a rush to join musky
reminders of you; your x-ray leer
adds the burn to my cheeks.

It seemed the thing to do, darling,
wanting to stay clothed in little
but you. Take me home, please,
peel me from my wrapper.
Lay me back in tangled sheets
surely cool now in our absence.

December 2001
Judge Susan De Witt

First Place
-exhumation of mass grave at Choeung Ek, Cambodia-

by Jerry Jenkins

Years of storm have receded. Violence ebbs.
A shoal of bones, heaped up in driftwood tangles,
lies with the heft and density of clubs,
in hexagons and accidental angles.
A swell of pelvis rises as a wave
stilled in its cresting. Ribs bow up, brown staves.

Fastidious birds pick through the surface tier
of knob and shank and curve. Dark scorpions,
waxy and pliant, sidle and disappear
into this wilderness of skeletons,
of knurled bone-ends porous with honeycomb,
small cells filled with detritus, blood and loam.

A child picks up an object from the dirt,
examines it, ignorant of its causes,
drops it back to the earth. It lies inert.
The ground grows human teeth, and no one pauses
to mourn these scattered anonymities.
Starlings twitter and squeak in the arid trees.

Skulls brood in their pyramid. Owlish, white,
some rest at an angle. All have eggshell cracks.
They stare into themselves, reliving the sight
of the hatchet, baseball bat, steel pickax.
Hollow fruit of the grave, they lie revealed,
stolid as geodes broken in the field.

These silent ones, exhumed from the teeming ground,
insistent, blind and dumb as the seasons' turning,
whisper of dust, and the earth's relentless round.
But they will be heard again, urgent and burning
with what they have seen. Like chattering birds they
come, full of their secrets, out of the hecatomb.

Second Place
In Memoriam-- Peter Bladen-Pryor
by Dennis Greene

We met just once, an evening on the Swan
above the rowing club, and spoke of art,
and poetry; I'd like to say we watched
the river run in silent circles smooth

as glass across the far light speckled
surface of Perth Water-I'd like to say
we saw the stars as burning suns
that fed on poems,

but we said nothing of the night,
the place, the river; just talked of art,
the joy and pain of sonnets-- and bouquets
that bear the burden of a life,

a thousand thousand times
more complex than a poem.

Third Place
Hospital Time (To David)
by Phil Stinson
Cafe Utne

In this house we talk and cry
hammer out what we need to discover
stumble in from green hospital walls
try to sleep at odd hours
learn about the Shadow.
A cliché -- "the Shadow of Death." Here's the rub...
It is here.

I need something to tide me over
drugs, sex, prayers, alcohol
today moves slow as the doctors deliberate.
You waver on your pillows.
Your eyes are looking off at some ocean.
If you leave, there will be serious problems.

I stand beside you, a Job's comforter

where there are no helpful answers
where any action is unsatisfactory
where no body, however young, is immune.

Beside you in the night terrors and grinding weariness
of even bothering to get through a day.
In the chill promise of mortality
numbing promise of sooner than later

Casting, grasping at straws;
chiropractic, shamanism, holism,
tinctures, astrological influences, Eastern breathing
scorned by doctors with nothing better to offer,
contradictory with veiled, noncommittal eyes

Watching dismayed as the pounds, needed muscle and fat
shrink to recent memory.
I clean your hair from the shower drain every day.

Beside you in silent solitary illuminations;
truths unanswerably implacable,
blinding, indifferent, terrifying,
beautiful, supernatural, hopeless.

Let's make fists of divine unfairness,
raised shaking at nothing in particular,
invoking unknown spirits
falling impotent and trembling

I'm beside you in confusion, weariness, and fear
as only a father can descend with a son.

Let me unflinching burn
these memories within.
I will still try and teach you to dance.

Honorable Mention
Missouri Bar
by Rick Sheely

Down on Tucker Street, the Missouri Club rules Sunday night
Girls, night out for the whores along Jefferson and Grand
Fills the sleepless hours for alcoholic Teamsters and waiters
With jazz and blues, and escape the loneliness at the bottom

And we play the old stuff, old school, music cut on the yellow teeth
Of the Mississippi delta, cold and muddy as the waters
Flowing south along the blues highway from Chicago to New Orleans
The silt of wreck and ruin spilled across its checkered floor

Once upon a time this Mobar was America, all dolled up
In stream-lined silver and streaming neon eyeliner
Where plates filled with burgers and meatloaf were served up
By beautiful young faces in shiny, white skirts and blouses

Everyone liked Ike, and Ike liked them, even if his last name
Was Turner and not Eisenhower, her name Tina, not Mamie
And the music bubbled over like the greens simmering in bacon grease
Music, re-inventing itself with every bent note, every strained chord

Take back the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and this sand bar
Might still be the most regal queen this side of the river
But the years have been cruel to her, and even the cheap makeup
They hoist upon her, cannot hide the ugly truth, that she has cancer

And yet inside, we play like mad Scotsmen, with kilts ablaze
Wind up the saxophone, straighten out the trumpets
Let loose the Tower of Power on a city hungry for the blues
Hungry for the guitar, hungry for the wail of the harp

Hungry to feel alive, to be a part of what seems so far away
To feel love, a woman, a man dancing in your arms
The longing for touch so deeply embedded in the heart and soul
That there is little rope left to climb back, to escape

Only in a song can such magic take shape, only the notes
Falling like spiral stairs before them, beckoning them back
To the feelings of life outside the excess and consumption
Break the rocky surface, if only momentarily, and breathe deep

Sharecroppers and slaves have been replaced
By cabdrivers and office workers in chains of complacency
And they sit around our bonfire, take warmth in the flames
That the music offers them on chilly November night

Until, all that is left is the ambers of morning
Another day to face the grinding poverty and addiction
Another day to sleep alone with no thought of tomorrow
Only of so many yesterdays, come and gone

Come and gone, like the Old Man in his bank
Come and gone, like first love, first hate
Come and gone, like the chance to make it in this life
Come and gone, like the luck squandered when needed the most

Down on Tucker Street, the Missouri Club sleeps quietly Monday morning
Her breath wheezing, she hacks from too much cigarette smoke
Fills the sleepless hours with something better than loneliness and despair
Jazz and blues, painted colors in the corners of the dead, who will sleep

Until tomorrow night.

Honorable Mention
The Test
by Diane Hamilton
Cafe Utne

"Use it in a sentence."
What? Use what in a sentence?
"She took hirsel(f) too seriously."
If this was a test
I would pass it my way.
But what I really wanted to do
was drop kick him into tomorrow.
"No, hirsel," he said again
as if it were the reprise of his favorite hymn,
"meaning to arrange in flocks."
I thought of tiny morsels on a plate
little bits of cheese and cracker crumbs
moving them around, herding,
no hirseling them.
Of course, I didn't say it aloud.
I imagined the inside of his head
as a great cavern,
not entirely empty but with
a few jewels embedded on the bottom
lovely diamonds if you could only pry them loose.
He was still waiting,
tapping on the desk,
I began slowly,
weighing every word.
"At night she went to sleep
by counting sheep, starting at 100
and counting backward but never reaching zero."
I asked if a paragraph would be okay
and when he nodded grimly,
I continued. "When she finally
fell asleep, she dreamed the dream
of the faithless. Sheep wandering off on their
own, tripping over rocks, tumbling from cliffs, alas,"
Oh no, he's rolling his eyes now,
I shouldn't have said alas.
"there was no Good Shepherd there for

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