BEST OF 2003

BEST OF 2002

BEST OF 2001

BEST OF 2000





Winning Poems from 2003


January 2003
Judges: The editors of River Styx

First Place
Missing the Cut on Noah's Ark
by William Neumire
Melic Review

Bristled knees sloughing
Through three-foot waves, broken
liquor flasks, bronze coins, bone
Dice, keepsakes of a papery world
Move on the brine surface.

What can you lie
About with the water already
Breeching your waist?

But there are these moments- before
The wrath is full, while the boat
Is still swelling in the distance:
To watch the species budge
Their way to the hull and squeeze
Themselves between the bowed boards-
Knowing that you are at least
Better than this desperation.
To be proud of your godlessness
And gather the entire scarred earth
In one more good breath.

There are the small
Decisions: to move through the downward
Current or stand a while as the only
Motionless thing.
To find a woman, already praying,
And remember what passion you can.

Or to pray yourself, legs akimbo
In the ocean mood, salty tides
Lapping in the throat, muffling tardy words.
To recall the last few sins
And if not to repent then to take
A new pride in their purchased
To open your eyes
To the water, or to close them.

Second Place
Visiting his Aunt, Christmas 2002
(Green Holly Man)

by Laurie Byro
Wild Poetry

The rivers have frozen, yet beneath the ice,
turtles and fish swim in slow motion--
a silent ballet, undistracted by the jubilant world.

At night, we skate beneath stars
that pirouette closer. The motion above
and below suspends us as if we were fish,
struggling to breathe, struggling
to keep from becoming stones.

Last year, trying to escape the cold--
we snuck off to the barn,
to hear the lowing of the animals.
But the dark with its mossy warmth
greeted us with another legend, and the
green holly man startled us
from his perch up in the rafters.

This night, we are cagey, fearless.
A flask of whiskey has made us bold.

You tie up my laces, wrap a long red scarf
round and round.
You kiss my forehead, warm my neck
with wool muffled breath.

We skate through a skeleton of trees,
sentinels to a deeper forest. We stop
at a boulder we know by its graffiti,
pause to take a swig, your eyes merry
as you tell me to look up at the cobwebbed sky.

Weíve dared each other before. I suck
your bottom lip, taste the smoky malt.
Birds mate in the trees, branches fill with eyes.

Your arms are thorned as you pass
the flask. Your eyes glow red.
The trees rustle, your face scratches
as you kiss me, whispering "Happy Christmas."

I remember the bitter taste of you.
You crush one berry in my mouth.

Third Place
The Eighth Day
by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block

When he awoke he had no memory
of how the hand slid in, rummaged
the muck of his insides, or how fingers
pried loose sinew with a green-stick snap,

then the sound the wrist made retreating
like a mud stuck foot freed suddenly,
as gore covered, glistening with gristle,
drew out the bone. The bone lay in the sand

beside him , it curve a mimic of  
a boar's tusk, and sensing  
it might be hungry, he piled a palm frond
with papaya, guava, and Uula bark;
laid it down to see if it would eat.

He was drawn to it like one is to his own
excrement knowing once it was somehow
a part of him, and he got on all fours
to sniff its length, probed it with
a finger, sifted its hair, and knew

now that he would have to feed it,
listen to its yammering, even kill for it.
The bone stirred from sleep,
felt the heat of his body, the bole
of his back and wedged against him
wanting again the rhythmic didact
of blood pulse, the slow contraction
of lungs expiring; the wet dark.

Honorable Mention
Annie's Hair
by Andrea Defoe
The Critical Poet

My sister's hair,
white-blonde milkweed silk,
glides between plastic teeth.
I promise her I'll get it right.

I set curls to frame her face,
like the ones I gave her on prom night.
When she was sixteen and I was fourteen,
I was weedy, awkward, and invisible.
She made the boys stupid.

Daddy used to watch her
while she washed the dishes,
blonde ringlets damp with sweat.
He'd spit his chew in the sink,
wipe the brown dribble on his sleeve
and clasp her from behind.

She'd wash herself
until her skin looked sunburnt.
I'd fix her hair.

When she married Charlie
I gave her an elegant updo.
When he left her I polished her up
so she could find a new man.

She vowed years ago
that I'd have to outlive her,
because I was the only one who
could get it right.

She is tied into this chair,
so she wont flop over,
wearing a mask of foundation
on her face,
and on her wrists
to conceal the slits -

as if anyone could forget.

February 2003
Judge Mark Yakich

First Place
by John Eivaz

The sober gentleman drove home in reverse. When he arrived, the hole in his lot between a modified taupe Ranch and a traditional pale yellow Ranch had begun its tentacle-waving grab at the chilly air. Do I live here? the gentleman inquired of himself, soberly. Like a gust he hissed: I do. The way it flails and reaches, he continued to explore, it certainly has touched my wife already, my family. The good work car strained to continue in the opposite direction, against the squish of a bleeding foot in a work boot. I love her, them. I must save them.

The gentleman disowned sobriety in a desperate act, allowed his vehicle to pick up speed. Rode the ribbon of road out of midnight's bright yarn box, through harvest brown stoic freeze and sink of oven. Whipping these mesa'd flatlands he might as well have been motoring in the right direction. The monk-specks dotted the mountains, looked the same, coming or going. If the gentleman wasn't wasted, he might have stopped for a spot of no-talking. Which he had nonetheless. His communication required not another. Articulation left before him, behind him: the scale of the no-longer sober gentleman now measured by his thought, how alien it was. For what do we have? What might we trust but our differences, even unto ourselves, saith the Whooey.

My handsome wife, my wedding kids, snug between the Ranches - what will become of them? Now that I have disappeared into what was - where will they go? They have everywhere to go, saith the Telephone-Guru, the Tinkling-Dreamcatcher, the Internal-Combustion-Shoulder-Pat. Be not a-Fred, or a-Bill, or an orator. The wasted gentleman continued testifying his satisfying Yabba Dabba Doo sans As and Os. I must save them, Ybb Dbb D Ybb Dbb D. Speedometer still too promising, he floored it in reverse on the straightaway. His bloody foot sang dry hymns, and crackled. Go man go, chanted the sacred jackrabbits. Yes Yes, hissed the cool lizards.

Just before he ran out of gas many miles from his lot, and the promising massage of dark tentacles had whipped away his wife, had said Now Now to his children and watched them as they slept, the tired gentleman's hungover red eyes fell upon a glorious hitchiker. She paced and joked to herself, half-carrying her own lot. She wasn't going forwards or backwards, only pacing. The glowing gentleman said Hop in, and she did. The car faced west, motionless, and their sunsets were now balanced.

The next day the gas came and the car drove away. Where is our lot? the glorious hitchiker cooed. It is over there, saith the Sparkling Wheel. Way over there.

Second Place
Gabriel's Cup
by Tamar Silverman
Melic Review

I fall asleep with Tennyson to dream of Titian angels;
dream I've joined with Gabriel, pregnant with giants
grown tired of little men, for if I take the farthest reach,
hind's feet on high places, surefooted without justification,
beauty becomes what pleases without explanation.

Until then, a thousand dunes to walk, in the tremor
of plagues poured and with your slaves, to exhaustion--
no deliverer come. So let the Cairene women ululate;
let witches curse-- I've come for the seer; my want:
The promised land. Anoint my breasts with vanilla;

jasmine between these thighs. Kohl-line the lapis
of my eyes. Brush my hair with olive oil. Coax the cobra
to dance with the asses of men; mix bone and seed,
stone and spice to heal, then wake me in the Dead City,
poisoned beneath gray laburnum trees, to see the skyline

dome and tower slend against a backdrop cerulean deep,
that I may believe, cynically drinking from the beggar's cup
an old, diminished man has given, to say: Illusions end.

Third Place
Divine Wind
by Paul Madden
Enter the Muse

her arms, she said, were wire
the dress hanging from her would dry
if only I wasn’t rain

it was I
who stuck my finger into the sky

and replied, I was a paper bird
that rain would pull down from the sky
if only she wasn’t the wind

Honorable Mention
Hokusai's Women
by Kathryn Black

Coiffured women are slender birds
enfolded in silk wings.
Their faces have been dusted
with rice powder - white
with small scarlet lips,
finely drawn black eyebrows.
Walking with the grace
of snowy egrets,
they bend their long necks
and tempt lovers
who dare not touch
except with flowery words.

Honorable Mention
Winter Fog
Dark Moods

by Ariegaw LE Garcia
About Poetry

It rises from the bottom or maybe it descends
from above sometimes you see
it come in from out there floating along the surface of the Bering Sea
a twist on deception in the noiseless freeze all I hear is the motion
of the water against the boat and the fog horn that shatters
the muffled effect of molecules packed tightly together
bone cold obscures my reason unable to control
the chattering of my teeth pulling the nets into
the boat I convulse the line slices into my
fingers icy rage is never planned it
just happens like this thick
winter fog that swallows
you alive leaving no
clues to which
way shore

Honorable Mention
A Synonym for Stoic
by Laurel K Dodge
The Writer's Block

Forecast: Snow squalls.  Windchills
below zero.  The dead of winter.  Under
my down comforter, I shiver.
I can't get warm.

I didn't hold him.  A technician cradled
my cat as they killed him.  The vet assured me
it wasn't the wrong decision.
I hung up the phone.

Another loss.  She says the words
like a bad actor, traps me in an obligatory
hug.  I donít want her stiff arms around me.
I shrug off her mothering.

I keep using the same metaphor over
and over:  Like a baby Rhesus monkey denied
of real parenting, I learned
how to cling to wood.

I waited until his brain was dead.
I waited until I was sure he couldn't hear me.
Then, like a coward, I whispered:
I love you, Dad.  Goodbye.

March 2003
Judge Susan Kelly-Dewitt

First Place
Passenger Side
by Dana Elaine Carr
Cafe Utne

So much more patient with intricacy,
even than in my youth,
when I won a reputation for complicating
anything I touched,
I gather the details of every landscape,
the flakes of paint on every abandoned barn,
the sculpture of each weed that grows
in the roadside ditch,
the precise way the tear in the banner
shows the sky, sings with the wind,
fading billboards with puzzling messages
about agricultural lubricants and God,
and signs offering bulbs free
to those who will plant them in hope.

Second Place
Flesh, Blood, and Dimension
by Mary Prenosil
Moontown Cafe

why you punish me?

Tic tock, goddamn clock - make it stop.
Flesh, blood and dimension:
absurd restraint, dainty comments flutter
fine tea china constraint
savin' it all up for sunday
mass relieved 98% of the mafia
black threaded, beaded --
led through the e-zine, bored
yet note that this round is completed.
there's things the butcher said to mamma'
room temp converts circus freaks
to petrified wood.
not standing or sitting 'round rotund proverbs
So this is the life?
So that is your love?
Sew this mouth shut when truth multiplies multitudes ignorance --
first, they come for second tries.
Nah. Nope. bit of brazen clique, ya’ stutter
door jammed up with your foot that kindly felt out
our lips.
Flesh, blood and dimension
Ain't no good for ya' here, little girl. Go on -- git
trailers and wagons is comin'
you don' wanna' be next
number in line is 42.
fingers gnaw fancy black keys
feign a little interest at the left bank backlash
-they've served the best-
gods dropped to their knees when she knocked
god's dropped the children
when mamma said ain't no good goin' back.
giddyup, git along
spur your stallion
-sing alone-

Third Place
The Road
by Melisa Resch
About Poetry

A pilgrim loves the road.
Or rail.
She thinks the train more romantic.

The swing and click spills stories
From a lonely widow about the old days in a kibbutz.
The clack sways theories

Within hours the universe is settled.
Nowhere to be but here,
Till she’s there.
Then it’s one foot before the other to
Learn the secrets
Of gondolas that skim canals,
Castles that stand firm on windy moors,
Birthplaces of voices like Dickens and Mozart.

Turbulence rises, though,
It bubbles up a deeper secret;
That mankind is often unkind.

Within wire fences of a puzzling locale
Such as Dachau,
Electrified by her own terror,
She laid to rest her pure trust in goodness.

On the trail again,
When confusion of conundrums
Steal sleep and borrow time,
Some bit of beauty pierces clarity into reality.

Maps are unfolded,
Destinations chosen,
A new journey is begun with wide eyes and curious strains
To seek secrets that please a pilgrim.

Honorable Mention
by T.E. Ballard
Wild Poetry

I think of an egg. A loon's offering
tied to the center of my breasts
like the eye of a Cyclops. Always seeing,
always looking somewhere. It is this egg I think of,
carried the summer I was ten
with ten thousand others buried deep
in the pockets of my ovaries, waiting.
Waiting like a child for a bird to fly out of her chest;
a gryphon, a phoenix or some other
magical beast. These are the things I remember; this
and the sour smell of my shirt
after possibility had died. How I drew
the needle across the center
and poked a hole, blew out the placenta
like the tongue of a lizard
and the clear line which held death.
I painted the white shell in blue, then red
drew small flowers, tied their stems
into intricate patterns, carefully,
in case I was wrong.

April 2003
Judge Mark Yakich

First Place
"love and thick metaphors"
by Kathryn Koromilas

with a nod to Gerard Manley Hopkins


if i pull a thick
out of a thin
hat, will you bring your ruler?


measure this:

i slide down the curve of your spine and whisper Silk Smooth Paper
(thickness of metaphor, 385 gsm)
i tap the skin there, press keyboard-button bones
(size of metaphor, Lucida Sans 14 pt, Bold)
and make the word dapple
--i'm about to express how your skin is the sun peeking through the trees as
seen fragmented on bare geography--


someone said it's all about contraction; making a smaller simile. For

the long version:
Wait, wait for me, will you? Adventure tells me I have to go. I'll be back.
Stay. Like An Obedient Pet. Stay. And if you close your heart to all the
others, I'll come back Like A Treat, Like A Fat Chicken Biscuit.

the short version:
Be my Penelope.


Aristotle didn't speak of thick or thin, just metafora--
giving you a name
taken from someone else--

You are my Ted
(as in Hughes, Poet-Man-God; height of metaphor, over 6ft tall),
my Sweet
thing (as in John or chocolate, weight of metaphor, 90 kilos or 250 grams,

Diomedes didn't speak of size, either; but of shifting
meaning from proper to improper, for the sake of:

a. beauty (your dappled sunlight smile warms my brow)
b. necessity (i frame you, my dappled-red Picasso, in the tortured gallery
of my mind)
c. polish (your whisper, dappled promise of early afternoon in the park)
and d. emphasis (the dapple-drawn puzzle of your heart)


sometimes i'll speak metaphors you won't notice, so familiar
by now (you're my Araki bud; my red
my red my red my red my red
rose; will love ever
bloom in the desert of your heart?),
they must have been vivid
once but they've shriveled;
melted fat into thin common bones.
Death does that.


watch me pull a thick metaphor
out of a thin hat, call me poet
and love me for it.

Second Place
Guernica by Picasso
by Christopher T. George
Desert Moon Review

Even after all these years, the women are still screaming,
fingers transmuted into sausages or sardines
that won't stop the babies from falling.
Body parts mix with those of bull and stallion:
eyes flared, hooves, horns, teeth, faces ripped in two.
The bellows of animals become human.

Third Place
The Emporer of China
by Paul Madden
Enter the Muse

There was little more in the world she wanted
at that moment, than for her body to turn

into the twelve white pigeons flying above,
whilst he, the bedded chrysanthemum, would watch her.

Honorable Mention
St. Sebastian
by Emily Brink
Melic Review

When I was a little girl,
undressing, I always turned
the face of Jesus to the wall.
Hanging backwards, he was spared,
saved the sight of a girl's
naked frame. It was like turning
off the lights in my body.
Today, on a date in the Renaissance
wing of the museum, under the gaze
of St. Sebastian's marble statue,
I turn my face to the wall.
The arrows in his bloodless chest
are lead-tipped lady fingers.
I'm wearing a gold-lace bra
from Victoria's Secret.
I regale Syed with many tales
from the secret lives of saints.
They say that St. Sebastian was the Emperor's lover,
I tell him; that he brought more than
just bread and wine
to hungry Christians, men imprisoned
behind Roman walls.
I remember when Uncle Lee left
to have a sex change operation.
Auntie Kyla took all of his pictures down,
nailed up pictures of the saints
instead, but the walls mumbled
in shadows during the daytime
saying you can weep and play the blues
till' the cock crows, but he ain't
comin' back here to roost, honey.
Truth told I am more than flight
to find myself facing
Syed as he looks into my eyes
whispering, zohar. Like a dream
by Al Hazen, I face the tender
tug in my pelvis, the blood
as it rushes
down, down
into my shining copper cup
of wine.

Honorable Mention
A Somewhat Inexact History of Flowers
by Jim Zola
Melic Review

I could write how I’m amazed
at the yellow of spring’s first
daffodil. But that would be
too exact, untrue. In fact,
it’s just the first I notice,
looking up. It catches my eye,
the bud not yet fully open,
poking through a layer of dead
leaves. And I’m not amazed by it,
but more by the consistency
of things, the plodding renewals
of crabgrass, cockroach, dog droppings.
Of a yellow flower.
Younger, I might have stomped it,
angry at everything then.
But it would take sixteen steps
to reach the garden’s edge,
and sixteen back again.
My anger’s burrowed
deeper than a seed. Besides,
a neighbor now is out walking
his overweight dog
as he does every day,
and will continue to do
until one of them gives up.
We wave without speaking.
Muscles and brain, as if saying
- I see you, I don’t see you.

Honorable Mention
She Tells Me
by Selig
About Poetry

She tells me the name
of every bird in paradise
She thinks the more I know of birds
the closer I will get to flying
The days have turned to ochre
washed with light, faded with truth
And we are learning by braille
of the things we cannot see

It is hard for me not to pause by your side
and reach for the comfort of your body
Is there any other comfort you can give me?
You are bleaching your dreams in buckets of time
and I am trying not to notice how blue
makes your hands go white

Honorable Mention
The Calligrapher
by Kathryn Black

I recline on pillows
in my small wooden boat;
a sharp tang of pipe smoke
wafts over dark water.
My wife stands in the bow,
watches fireworks
falling like flowers onto the bridge.

I will remember this night.
My brush will dredge thick ink;
in energetic strokes the words
will be painted on silk-threaded paper.


My apprentice shall set my tribute
into a scroll which will hang
as a lone ornament.

There will be preparations for tea,
boiling of water, silence,
measurement of green powder,
whisk and raku cups.
One will hand the offering
to another, take small sips,
find peace in ritual.


Under blankets my wife whispers, Yugiri.
I wind my arms around her delicate
form and put my cheek to hers.
You're my beloved, I say,
you have given me my voice.

May 2003
Judge Mark Yakich

First Place
by James Lineberger
Melic Review

i don't know of any woods like this
around here now
but when we were kids my brothers and me
got lost in some woods
behind our uncle atlee's house woods
that looked all right when we went in
but all of a sudden
changed when we found out we didn't know where
we were or which way to get out again
woods that kept
getting deeper and deeper
and richard like usual decided he had got bit
by a snake a hoop snake this time
he said
and he could feel
the poison which didn't spread near as fast as a copperhead
more in one place like when you touch
a waffle iron to see if it's hot
and what was the use of keeping
on walking he said
if he was dead anyway
and he just sat down and refused to go any further which
was his usual game of somebody had better
carry him or he was a goner
well fuck that
bud said i aint carrying your dead ass nowhere
go on and die see if i care crybaby
but just then a owl sailed right past us close
as my arm
and richard was up and running like a shot
and we had to tackle
him and bring him down saying
fool fool
that will just make the poison go faster through you
so without a knife to lance him
we had to take turns with him on our backs
because a person can lie and lie and there will still be
that one time when it's the truth
but while i was taking my turn
it got darker
and darker through the trees till you couldn't hardly see each other 
     in front of you
and richard had either fell asleep on my shoulder or else
he was in a coma
i thought and i had begun to imagine what it would
be like if he was to die like that
with me carrying him
and i could see the funeral with the rain and the umbrellas
the way they do it in the movies when
they really want to make you feel it the worst
and i told bud
and he said to hold still so he could feel for a pulse
but if richard had one it was awfully faint
bud said
and he shook richard and said richard richard look there's mama
which brought him around thank god
and he raised his head trying to see through the trees
saying yeah i can see her he said
and he let go with one arm and pointed out in the darkness
look look over yonder he said
and it was true there was somebody or something moving through
the trees like ghost lights floating
and bud got down
and started to throw leaves all over his self trying to hide
but it was too late
they were floating closer and closer
dark figures with puff balls of light all around
and jesus this deep voice all of a sudden said
what chall doing way out here
and then we could see it was a wagonload of cotton behind two mules
and up on top was this colored tenant farmer
and his family that we had seen
one time at barber junction when uncle atlee said
that nigger owes me twelve dollars
and bud was still
covering his self with leaves whispering don't say nothing
and richard hugged me tight with his legs locked around me and his eyes
shut playing dead
but somebody had to take charge
so i said
i said if y'all take us outa here my uncle atlee will give you
twelve dollars
which made the colored man narrow his eyes
where he said you get a figure
like twelve dollars you just make that up or is your uncle atlee just love
to give money away
well i knew how to talk to people like him i might not of been
but twelve but you couldn't help
but learn
if you watched everybody else in this world
take it or leave it i said
twelve dollars that's three dollars a piece that's twelve aint it and the man
stared down at me like they do at the grocery
store when you
handle the candy bars and they know you aint got a dime
git up
he said and let out a rattlely cough and shook his head
and i lifted richard up
and pulled bud out of the leaves
and we sank down in that big load of cotton with the whole family 
     around us
must have been ten kids
with their hands scabby and bleeding from the cotton
and their big mama
who wore a straw hat and a pair of sunglasses that had one
of the lenses missing which would have looked funny only she had
this beautiful sad smile
like even when she was happy
she was thinking about something else
and her husband
said something to the mules and we went lumbering off and he never
even turned around when he said
y'all know how far you come you come ten miles through
them woods it's a wonder
you not dead
little city boys like you i be damn i just be
he ought to know better than let chall run around loose
in the middle of nowhere
well okay then mister twelve dollars it is only don't say nothing
till after i'm gone
and then you tell your uncle atlee
said to just add it on to that other twelve i won't never
get back from him either

Second Place
Take Care of Everything for Me
by Sherry Saye
Melic Review

Nothing in your letter
about coming, about being on top
of a cloudless day. Nothing, even, about being
on a mountain side, not quite on top
and dreaming relevance, reasoning politics,
deals, maybe.
Dirt and moss
in my nostrils as you fuck me. Maybe
there. Control
and controlled.

I've always trusted you, take care of everything, listen to me now. Money, forehead love as the button to the chest, music. Where you're poised this minute feeling chill or fever all around you, perhaps my wonder could be democracy and business, stimulated by fields of nettles in the midst of cities, fame. You are my big, famous city. Elements of blood, angry cars. Psyched, packed, and paid.

Third Place
by Brendan Wiebe
Enter the Muse

Mother gave her liquor 
once, and her pupils became 

black sunflower seeds 
bobbing in water bowls. 

an empty bird 
swing. mimicked laughter 
from the bottom of 
her cage at night.

Honorable Mention
Onkochishin: Learning a Lesson from the Past
by Shelley Helms Fleishman
Salty Dreams

An Ikebana class:
the woman's nun hair
cropped to her ears,
her hands floating and sure.
Her voice seemed apart from her,
as if it needed to be summoned
from the next room,
the words handed to her
like flowers.
The vase waiting,
water waiting to be filled,
when she began,
a sliver of skin showed
between her shirt and slacks,
showing her stem bent and smooth.
The movements like a dancer,
her poses like a bird, she worked,
her balance exceptional.

She reminds me --
Mrs. Batastini's hands
were capable, with nails
just even with the tips of her fingers.
Her natural expression
was more serious,
but her unexpected smile
lit her eyes to honey.
She made me feel
my own careful potential,
that my bloom
was exotic.
We learned cirrus, cumulus. --
She moved like this,
as if praying.

The monk well known for this art,
he gathered the red lilies
from beside the rails,
the blooms burning
and unwelcome in everyone else's hands.
Witness his vase, the bronze shoe,
Victorian and open to the toe,
holding the forbidden.

These women, this monk,
each one points back to another
like the feather in a woman's hat.
Who holds the leaves just so.
Who names the cloud.
Who teaches how to see the sky.

June 2003
Judge Claire Hero

First Place
While I Wrote My Dispatch: A Sequence
by Robert Bohm
Melic Review


One Leg of a Return 
for Janice Kijenski 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

are what I am. Feel 

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


Fall Outing 

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

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

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

reddened by silence, his head aches. 


Beyond Brush Run 

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

through cold rain into 
the underbrush, hides soaked 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dusk Mist Years Ago 

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

The ducks on the pond, noise 
minus bodies. 

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

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

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

Years later, their crying haunts me. 

Tonight I listen to ducks that aren’t there. 

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

Mist touches stone. 

That sound 
is me. 


Connelly, 1973 

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

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

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

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


Miles from Indian Caverns 

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

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

with undergrowth 
and burrs stuck 

to fur. From this 
I reconstruct 

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

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

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

over creek rocks and through 
dead weedstalks. Hearing 

the unclear clearly, I find 
beyond the thicket 

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

on a dented bucket, already 
hungry for another meal. 


Wednesday Night 

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Place
Letter To My Sister
by T.E. Ballard
Wild Poetry

In my dream I wore two pockets around my neck.
The first opened to a daughter made of clear petals.

She was air floating through our fingers.
I named her yours and we were happy
and if we shaped our hands around her head
as a cradle we almost felt the soft spot on her skin.

The other pocket broke into two sons
the first healthy, screaming like a man
the second, his mouth stuffed with blood
like a child born when I was awake
and there was no way to close my eyes.

But in this dream, he is mine
and I remove the dark mucus from his mouth.
He breathes, a small fish begging for air.

I desire to give these children to your body
like rain to dry land. Yet in this place
I know what is yours and what is not.

I nurse two boys on the tips of my breasts
while you rock the air with a child
who bears no weight.

Third Place
Meeting a Former Teacher
by Tara Chapple
Rule 9

I have let myself go,
ballooning, I drag my new
intellect in tow

like a cross child. I see She is
as thin as ever, plucking strings
of a narrow-necked guitar

with articulate fingers,
fast like wires cut whilst live,
stopping only to sip green tea

as our conversation lurches
like my rosé wine, full-bodied-
red, if angled slightly.

I do not remember her being
far too grandiose for me
but I see there is

still common ground:
we wring our hands secretly
at the slack soft belly of
a spider in the grass.

Honorable Mention
Manufactured Quiet
by Will Roby
Enter the Muse

"when the one who's faithless has
nothing more to say and the silence is
terrifying since you must choose between
one or the other emptiness."
Stanley Plumly

We take the bigger half.
We might cut it in two
and try to make them even, but
we take the bigger half
and then we look to see who saw.

Even as the sun sets
I take big gulps from the garden hose,
keeping the coldest water for myself.
It's terrible, the way we do
the things we do, like children
poking holes in frogs to see
the bits run out into their palms;

it's us and God, who's overpoked
enough. We gather stones
and bitch about the dust at night,
the cold air of the day keeps up
and takes the bigger half.

There's the kid they cannot tell
is strung out half the night and still
he lets his heart beat on as if
it matters when he lives and dies.

Honorable Mention
Plees, Argimiro!
by Silvia Brandon Perez

Abuela Carmita was educated
in a beige convento
where dour-faced monjas
taught her all about pudor:

a senorita had to bathe
in a refajo and always
say ave marias when washing
certain unmentionable parts.

When she married Argimiro
she retained the strictures
handed down by her diosito
and never made love in daylight

lights out under cover of long sheets
and prim long virginal payamas
ten children well conceived
amidst much groping in the darkness

freshly arrived from La Habana
she went to the supermercado
with canvas bags, precursor
to ecological concerns,

saved all cans from salsa de tomate
for planting of gajitos de malanga
all rubber bands in one large Café Bustelo
washed out and aired, soil taken

from the neighbor's garden, you did not
spend hard-earned centavos on things
you could get free, you did not do
certain unmentionable acts with your marido

that was for putas and their like in bares
and what dios joined you could not sunder,
el matrimonio was forever, a promise given
was a promise kept, through years of my abuelo's

dancing through the carnavales with a rubia
or a pelirroja she kept her vows,
except for kisses given to the television set
when Tom Jones came to sing and gyrate...

she wanted to learn inglich to become
a citizen
paid each of us a nickel
for vocabulary,

learned to say pehnseel, plees
to write out her notes
to my abuelo, plees plees
no more mujeres, no more smoking cigarrillos,

no more juiski in the evenings,
but when the cancer took him,
52 years of matrimonio took their toll,

she talked to him each night
while watching her novelas on the tele,
shared new palabras in the inglich language,

said plees plees pless
Argimiro plees
come back to your esposa

July 2003
Judge Claire Hero

First Place
Life on the Row
by MJM
Wild Poetry

"You are and you aren't a part of the larger whole around you. 
You form friendships and your friends die. 
You dream and your dreams die." 

-- Caryl Chessman, executed May 2, 1960, San Quentin 

It is always night at the ocean 
in my mind, with a moon so full, it hangs 
too low in the picture frame sky like overripe 
fruit, burdensome for the branch. 
Take a bite. Be saturated with the taste 
of residual heat and monoi oil. 

It is always winter in the tropics 
in my mind, with a fan so large, it moves 
too slow in the little thatched hut like molten 
rock, born to form this place. 
Close your eyes. You are the root 
of breadfruit and tiare tahiti. 

There are always guests at the table 
in my mind, with tales so bold, they grow 
too wild in the dining room like uncivilized 
weeds, increasing in complexity. 
Drink your tea. Follow them to the core 
of the black-lipped oyster's womb. 

Beyond the bars of my cage 
I hear them talk, 
the guard in the grease-stained shirt 
to the man with one gold crowned tooth. 
'Good thing this ain't Los Angeles,' he says, 
'They're so used to pollution down there, 
I've seen 'em last in the gas 
five minutes, maybe more.' 

It is perennial night at the ocean, perpetual winter 
in the tropics. The people-they always come 
to tell tales at my table. And each in the cell of himself 
is almost convinced of his freedom.

Second Place
Fishing with the Wardog
by Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
The Salty Dreams

My father was not a highwayman, executioner: 
a line cast into the Potomac, boy, do you like catfish? 
               Like a stone or 
               earthenware body 
marble eye-pits, 
the man did not tilt. I thought he had died 

or fallen to sleep, upright, totem-he was a painted man, 
conceived in browns, olive drab; adorned to the pier 
while I snubbed the wind. 
               I had seen this 
                              on many nights: 
                              the aztecman in hunt- 
I had been prey, ready to make sunspots, sunblood, 
though the whiskers and river eel proved better 
               than I. 

My father was not the moon, pulling water from coves: 
Texas passage to Appalachia, he was a line of silk or 
               taut leather- 
boy, this is where life goes, on a hook, on a hook. 
I am a man with a curved steel spine, 
years later, in the river, in the river.

Third Place
Yangshuo Quay
by Rebecca Loudon
The Writer's Block

At night, my father's boat is strung with lanterns. I give him 
a basket of pears, three dumplings wrapped in paper. 

He presses his thumb to the top of my head for goodbye, 
enters the Li River with his flock of tethered cormorants. 

They fly out on their leashes, kites flickering against limestone. 
The avu swim close, attracted to the bob and sway of lanterns. 

The cormorants swoop, pluck, swing the fish in pouchy beaks, 
thrash against the wooden collars that circle their throats, 

trying to swallow, swallow. My father reels the birds in, 
pulls the fish out of their mouths. 

In the morning he walks to the village and I ride my bicycle. 
He laughs when I stretch my arms out, then flap, 

caw and squawk, stretch my neck to one side, 
then the other, like the cormorant escaping its collar.

Honorable Mention
What Panther...
by Dennis Greene

What Panther... 
What Panther stalks beneath the earth... 
M. Kathryn Black 

In the panther's last moment, 
when the dull earth erupts 
from under the living skin, 
when, in the dark of the sky 
black roses grow, 

raining their petals 
on the dark pavement, 

we will go to the zoo you and I, 
to the cage of the earth 
to the glassed-in enclosures, 
to the drill in the jaguar's eye 
(no more cages Ted Hughes, 
but the lions are yawning) 
to the place where we save 
what is left, 

you will find if you walk 
past that place, 
past that heel on the floor 
and the restless 
turning-- past the crowd 
and the look on its face, 

past that vision of God 
and horizons churning 

my face in the glass 
of your door, my face 
and the glass, 
and the roses coming.

August 2003
Judge Claire Hero

First Place
The Gillie's Evidence
by Ivan Waters
Melic Review

A gewgaw moon dangled. Midnight 
over green shallows, sluice, and salt meadow. 
The tide standing. I went there alone, 
to the pools where 

fry and smelt lie. I found the clammy creature. 
Hair tortile, wreathed and red; belly 
madder rose. Around her, lily leaves all splits 

and tongues. Smeary carp sliding 
under a gliddery 
skin, horse-bruised 
pink, orange and white. One fish 

circled into its quick black eye. Its circumference 
a baby's arm. Bladderwrack pricked, 
gullies purled. She had no pulse. 
I believe I heard a cry. I am sure 

we hadn't met. 
I deny these teethmarks 
are mine; my mouth is clean. I swear I did not 
use a blade. The sealskin found beneath 

my bed; the bones, the charms, 
the bridle. The letter 
from the New Jersey girl to whom you will say 
I once was wed, 

with whom you will say 
I swam. The depraved gape, the scarlet gash. 
I have no knowledge of these, 
the blue eyes in my flask.

Second Place
by Adam Joshua Liszkiewicz
Enter the Muse

Grass spills over patio stones, stained 
metal chairs, a leaning table. The empty house
fills the fading frame with clean cuts. 
The woman leads me with the leash of her grin. 

I knock rust off the latch. The knife and I 
ease in through the window, through the frame. 

Gouged hardwood stains our soft feet, brown and red. 
She wiggles toes, she kicks the tumbling dust, 

draws shingles from the quiet fireplace. 
Rust on the poker, rust on the hand, the ash 

rouses scents that mingle and ascend. 
The hanging chandelier above. Crystal 

daggers. She reaches, turns one over and over. 
Light cuts through the subject, joins and breaks. 

The point burns my weighty palm, reddish- 
brown and stained. Rust on the hand. The frame.

Third Place
Darwin's Moon
by Mitchell Metz
The Writer's Block

You are Bali. 
I am Lombok. 


Let us identify the facts. 

1) Sometimes we almost touch 

a. ships ply the strait 

2) We never touch 

a. ply, ply, ply 

3) Touching doesn't matter 

a. they carry mail 

b. cinnamon 

4) Around here, stuff explodes 

a. islands 

b. mail bombs 

c. tropical secrets 


Is it all about genetics, se 
ual disconnect? Paradise 

flycatcher, woodpecker, polecat vs. 
honeyeater, cockatoo, and wombat? 


(insert: eons, inchings/ insert 
again: ages/ again, insert. O!) 


This is not 
a relationship. Here 
geology mugs evolution 

with a slow gun, 
its chambers clogged 
by continents & discontent. 



Grab your shit 
& elevate. 


You used to wear 
your little tectonic number, 

and try to subduce me. 
Now it's just lava, lava, lava. 




Clean your gun. 
Grab your shit. 
Stop the mail. 

Tomorrow, after java, 
we board The Beagle. We 

rhumb-line it to the archipelago 
and scream: evolve!

Honorable Mention
Well After Midnight, July Comes Apart
by Rosetta Z Stone

Dogs bark in the distance, crickets thrum by the door. 
All the night makes free in these ramshackle rooms 
every portal open to a breeze. 

Moths cluster to my lamp, the guardian pine leans 
toward the gate of my undoing. Here 
the sky meets my sense of purpose in a storm. 

Earth drinks up like these may be the last drops falling. 
Tiny trees lined out among the flowers strive a root 
deeper than regret, more resilient than this thin resolve. 

Anything could wander in... or wander out. 
A house is just a shell, a spot of shade. No protection 
from what lies within, no respite from the past. 

No answers for the future, only open windows, 
sprung hinges, drawers yawning from their hold like beggars' palms 
Fill me! Put away your longing folded tight like linen, 

closet all your fears. These floors creak as if the very boards 
were aching for release, pulling nails to rise, swing high 
above my primal grasping, paint the sky 

with a flailing one could almost take for wings.

September 2003
Judge Claire Hero

First Place
by AnnMarie Eldon
The Writer's Block

I would sense borders,
the towpath’s past shouldering drays.
Before indiscriminate Sunday hordes, a black headed gull follows
the plough for leather jacks; in close-up
should be chocolate brown. 
Land also.

I forfeit strict scent edges,
my toes neckéd, strake the frass of spilling ants,
pre-tense their winging. 
Hollow stalked cow parsley straggles,
I struggle after a laudity. A plover, its lapwings broad,
momentarily folds, nests in 

marsh. Where do I start?
In a gaggle whose moulted feathers grounded
them, now grown to skein.
Coots come out, white, white, white bobs from reed beds.
A mute swan. Special spot. Skis. Stop. 
What quest me? 

There are barn swallows in agile flight.
A spring of teal spike vertical. My busy life, up.
I should like down:
the 3-spined stickleback in mud safe.
Then if not through specialness, 
then plainness and fecundity.

A grebe dives into its rest of rotting vegetation,
does not protest young, carried a’back.
A rare swan mussel, bouldered by a slight drought,
must filter 30 litres a day.
Responsibilities, ripples.
My soul, a freshwater shrimp, hiding under a stone. Yes, I should

like down.
Furrows from rowers’ burrowing paddles
their wide shoulders no doubt
their breath harmony with each others’.
I would frill tail, know fins, risk choke
vow violence aperture dive-back
my fingertips a stipple of bubbles below surface

                         become barbel, lashing, dangering the weir,
urban kayaks steer the forewash,
gudgeon gravelling worms. Flies in the face of reason, freedom
treason. Ah  St Gabriel’s calling,
roaring. A dace rises, batches flies. Flies in the face of freedom.

Long alone, I prise wombstone. Bequeath death.
Take off my girdle. 
Yes, St. Thomas, recalled, goes 

                                                                 open tomb.
Water-striders crop vibrations of the fallen. Falling. Kingfisher plunges
perch water prey. Adjusts its catch point inwards, my innards
always taking whole. I swallow, 
my haul home a safety I make for tunnel for bank for a runnel of fishbone.

You were once big.
Now only the tiny can help me.
A water boatman swims, top bellied, 
carries bubble, silver,
its spiracles breathing through currency, ventricle.

You were there, once.
Maybe you remember poison must hewn sown 
Oxford ragwort cyaniding horses, flint shrapnel, coffled crows. 
Or hope 

- rosebay willowherb’s purple remittal the azure damselfly dragon 


clouds for shrouds a halo of mares tails trails a puce mackerel sky a slurp rainblue I quant a strong body, of holy. Water-walker, storm calmer. Risen Son, I want cradle me, my motherhood swaddled against His child-man’s lullabying bosom. I ply between reversal and derision, each stile a straddle, shallow the kill, unbidden. My non-tidal burden, bare. It is set day. Still. My amniotics, sluiced to dry chrism, don’t. Yet who will sleep me if you won’t?

Second Place
Five Dates
by Trevor O'Brien
Enter the Muse

I. Carrie; Restaurant; Early Morning

She could not see my eyes for the duration of the song

There is no candle burning brighter
than my emergency torch. The infant
new day is trapped in the old window

II. Myself; Patterson Park; Evening

Canal. A trout squirms through a paper
Chain-link fence, and into my mouth.

Reflection pools together in the water.

No way in, or out, unless
I decide to shred my skin.

III. Entonio; Night Club; Late Evening

Stagnant. Straight. The touch of discolored
fingers, coarse like filters. The pumping is not
blood. Away with your needs, I’m down to my last two eyes.

IV. Mother; Snow Bank; Midnight

We make our vows in the snow.

Plant some flowers pull

Some flower from the road

In yellow-stained mourning, there is no son rising

White. Twenty selfhelp-changers,

Plugging my mouth. Blurring

My iris out.

V. Death; Bedroom; Mid Day

The voice screams a trembling light
onto the eggshell bed. All becomes yellow.
By tomorrow, death be better bedfellow.

Third Place
Reflections on a Japanese Screen
in a Carlton Apartment

by Lorin Ford
Wild Poetry

We’re as far from it, as far out now,
as centred on elsewhere as before.

Straw slippers, a flute for the wind,
incense, Zen art, the shrouded mountains
clutter the room with gestures of emptiness.

The real idea can be arranged
to suit the season, like cut flowers;
artificial grace argued by decor.

Bound feet? That’s Chinese and passé.
Today we embrace the bonsaied mind.

Culture wired to form is always in order
and art’s distortions are aloof from cruelty.

Have some barracuda sushi in the balcony garden
where wind tips the trays of gem-polished pebbles
and pits them at walkers below. There’s no view
of great-rooted blossoming from this height.

Remote as emperors flicking specks from silken robes,
we climb down the night into cars and taxis.

We spit our cultivated tastes
down the drain with the toothpaste, hide
our dirty laundry in the clothes dryer
and meditate on nothing.

October 2003
Judge Wayne Miller

First Place
Study of Absences
by Letitia Trent
The Critical Poet


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

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


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

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


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

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

Second Place
The Camp
by Marty Abuloc
Wild Poetry


An old man speaks

Let them feel the pang of hunger.
Lead them here
those who now sleep in the softness
of pillows and mistresses,
those who day by day wear
comfortable clothes,
and shiny shoes,
those with Rolexes, and cars
and mansions.

Let them take the path the children walked
just this morning, bellies full
of ceaseless hunger.
Let them feel the grass blade cutting
the skin from their legs as they run
in rice paddies, forest, city streets.
Let them scream
under a hail of bullets.


In Manila, a child asks 

Grandpa, what are those?

"Ah, fireworks, child.
Just fireworks
over at Mindanao."

They are pretty.
Look, is that a house burning?

"Not a house, child, just straw
made into a hut fit for burning.
See, it burns bright
and crackles!" 

Aren't those children, grandpa,
there by the fringes?

"Yes, child, and their parents too,
watchers, admirers of the view." 

But they have tears, grandpa.

"Child, it’s the smoke."

They look sad, grandpa, are they sad?

"Can one be sad at fireworks, my child?
It’s best that you sleep now,
the show will be over soon."

The senator yawns,
scratches his ass,
and turns off the TV.


Malaria Quarantine, Refugee Camp

Leaning toward the earth,
a child settles down to rest

under a vast sky
of red dreams

waiting for the flight of wings.

Third Place
The Last Sexual Extinction
by by Sean Farragher
Café Utne

[after] Gould, S.J., 1989. Wonderful Life:
The Burgess Shale and the nature of history. W.W.Norton and Company:
New York, p.1-347. ISBN 0-393-02705-8

Blood dries on my eye lids
closing off the entry and exit.
No one may find me. Perfection
rattles underneath the shed
and we call it a muskrat
and say there is extinction soon.
One can hear the slice of meat
and the undulations of the tunnel
where the tubes connect to Spring.

What does extinction mean the children ask?
No answers. Nothing.

The storm was petulant and wound through
silent cobalt tide grass caught by men and women
fucking; they slosh air to sleep in their own abode.
They kept breathing long after all the other phyla died.

This is the gift of faith
Ghosts survive in the corner of the coffin
left out to dry to be used again next war.

And as a litany we sing, almost without object, meaning
or that denied lie instinctive by birth,

"This mollusk is my brachiopod.
This trilobite is a lamb.

"This mollusk is my brachiopod.
This trilobite is a lamb."

Person #1: There is no order to life, you know.

Person #2: Do you really think every chance has been taken?

Honorable Mention
by William Neumire
The Writer's Block

Wake when the moon is low enough
to show the fall, a golden shower
overcoming the black rafters of space.

Know the astronomical history:
annual tail of bolides and earthgrazers,
dark heart of the comet carapaced in flame.

Know, also, what's been applied:
one who escaped
the warm confines of the womb
only to be sealed in a box
and thrown into the sea,
who floated to an island
and knew darkness
as his first view of the world
and who, when he died,
was cast into the ether
and anchored by stars.

Drive to the country
where the universe is clear.
You wonít need a telescope
to see the string of lights
come from Perseus,
or to watch hundreds of them
drop into oblivion.

There is something of a wish
in the storm, to hold still
as stone bodies, to arrest
the fires that consume
themselves so quickly
we hardly see them
except in their disappearing.
To moor the light into place,
to keep a picture of our dying
that returns to us each year
when the sky is just this dark.

November 2003
Judge Wayne Miller

First Place
Sacrifice, Leaves and Whippoorwills
by T.E. Ballard
Wild Poetry

Orange enters the green
crawls to the edge of a leaf
until it becomes fire,
a word falling
from the fingers of trees.

There are always two searching in the night.

It is easy to pretend
what is offered is not hollow;
a sound hiding in your hand.

I want to say it is a wing, the touch of 
a feather
after years of calling

but it is more
of an absence, color of leaves,
green, to orange, to brown
then dust.

My father believed us holy,
taught his daughters to be afraid
not of men in cars or guns or rape
but of silence. For days
he would sit with a question,
hold it over us
as if it were a knife.

Tonight we will not speak

now place your hand here, now here
explain with your tongue graves the holes we dig to love tell me where will our bodies lie -- who will be the bird, the sheep?

Second Place
To Go Miles In
by Charles Cornner
Desert Moon Review

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

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

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

Third Place
You Finally Contact Me
by Sherry Saye
Melic Review

Too late, 
the northernmost tip 
of the Divide Country falls, 
a forest in a moist corridor, 
an oversized crack in the dry grasslands 
where fir and pine 
thrive. Cherry Creek 
trips on the hot ridge 
and tumbles on its way to Denver. 
There's not a canyon on this earth 
you don't occupy. You gave them all to me, 
deep constants. 
Fertile wombs 
were spooky. 
Pseudo-Buddha. Rapist priest. 
Guitarist who needed to go to Spain. 
I remember your fit, 
always up and to the... 
was it right? 
Go away 
from below the cliffs in the shadows 
in those boyish wrinkled pants 
stained with all of our secrets, like when 
the Colombian rain 
came through the window on us.

December 2003
Judge Wayne Miller

First Place
The Dead Girl Talks Back
by Laurel K. Dodge
Melic Review

Don't believe the lies. Falling ain't 
flying. One small step into nothingness-- 
then big regret flails and grabs 
at the thin, thin sky. Grace, 

absented. You don't go mercifully 
blind; the earth, a benevolent curve 
from up this high flattens out fast as it rushes 
at you--desiring to collide 

with you more than you desire to collide 
with it. And the biggest lie of all: 
You don't die before you hit 
the ground. The last sound you hear 

is the crash, your body shattered, a slammed 
window, the panes rained out; 
all that remains, a framed emptiness. 
I found my meaning 

in this riverbed. I writhed life-like 
as maggots fattened on my death; 
I filled the silence with the thrum 
of busy insects. Each track petrified 

in the mud is a mouth I fed. 
Buzzards picked at my ribs, crows bickered 
over gristle, coyotes skulked off 
with the best bits: the heart, 

the lungs, the liver. Man walking your dog, 
cop, coroner, I know you mean well-- 
but sometimes the missing 
don't want to be found. And the dead 

want to be left alone, unmolested. 
Look at my scavenged bones. 
I'm beautiful. Leave me here. I'm part 
of the landscape now.

Second Place
Vessel Ponders a Career Change
by Mitchell Metz
The Writer's Block


It doesn’t exactly build a resume, 
but it’s what I do. Am. Same 
thing & 

that’s the beauty of it, 
the tragedy. 

         My bread & butter. 
                     They take my shape. 

The good ones see- 
p into my pores, de- 
spite kiln and glaze. 

Impermeability is potter’s myth. 
No vessel worth its volume 
doesn’t absorb content. 

Oh the substances I’ve hosted! 
          But that’s another matter. 
                     The issue at hand: 

it’s been a millenium 
and I’m tired; it’s time 
to move on. 

I said move. 
I like to kid around. 


has been an e 
ffective tool 
over the years. 

But a guy finally gets rid 
of his insides, and finds e 

doesn’t change a thing. 
He’s still a vessel, se 

e? And the problem with pour- 
ing is it requires an agent. I mean 
- ing is not part of my idiom. Still, 

it’s great fun 
          to play decanter 
                     now and then. Once 

I found myself under a fau- 
cet for days and fashioned 
it some kind of identity 

change involving runnething over. 
It’s rather embarrassing in retro- 
spect. Em- 


A good shatter 
          might be in order. 
                     Breakage is beautiful. 
Sometimes I dream I’m a frag- 

(again the agent issue: 
where’s a damn toddler 
when you need her?) 

-ment. Or 
some thrown 
& fired Buddha. 

Maybe if I sit here 
and concentrate not 
concentrate, and let go -- 

no form, 
                                agency -- 

I can become 
an artifact.

Third Place
The Title is the Door
by Will Roby
Enter the Muse

On a morning when the sky spills old milk
a man creeps up on his writing desk
to make this poem and forget about the weather.

He knows the line is a form of suffering,
the dead-lipped empty page and a black pen
like a zoo's cage opened after war.

He fills the tip with ink, his dog
fills his mouth with water
and the poet's got to know how to sort it out:

the big blue room, the sea, the empty bowl.
He enters the poem, where it is Memorial Day 
and some grass is coming in.

Honorable Mention
The Lifeless Light of Love
by Suzanne Delaney
About Poetry

I have read Auden and I have lived his words
I have lain my human head
sleepless on your faithless arm
In honour of romance,or
to affirm dimensions
of myself, I have
lost consciousness
in the scent of roses

If I appear to have preserved
a certain goodness
I have deferred my true self
to duty.
I grasp at one true thing
"that nature admits to cruelty"
but does not hide its
for this failing

Crafting perfect flowers
from paper, I decorate
them with plastic, life-like
With wings that will never flutter,
nor will they wither

Yes! Jupiter has moons
that number seventeen and
I will speak of anything
but love.

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