BEST OF 2003

BEST OF 2002

BEST OF 2001

BEST OF 2000





Winning Poems from 2004


January 2004
Judge: John Poch

First Place
palm fronds should be coiffed just so
by PJ Nights

 in deepest Britanny, she rides 
   the evening - ears afire - a gram 
of dinner napkin 
   marking the corner of her smile 

her hum gives the buggy's wheels 
    a colored tilt 

               pines rise 

on blue thermals above the lake's 
closed ears and Jeanette-no-pockets 
   puts the silver eyes of birdsong 
in her lap, lays thirty mice on a dime 

cropped August recrosses the water - 
  only fires and leftover bells slow 
the winter at her feet       she flies 

   to Tahiti      the all-out blue day 
buys Gauguins's kids with the little good silver 
       left in her purse 

on la Rue Mouffetard, she sells 
   her little white hen, its clutch 
of flushed eggs    with the richness of wolves 
and poise, she replenishes the days 

    January gargles Chanel no. 5 
         ballerinas toe the time 

Second Place
First Watch
by Terry Lucas
About Poetry Forum

If I sit perfectly still, how will I tell 
the starboard from the port 
of tomorrow? In the dark, 

I believe in the red and purple fists 
of the four-o'clocks, the midwatch 
of my mother's coffee pot, the stories 

that bubble up the metal throat 
and sob their way through the curved glass 
of her lips, swollen with memory of the blaze. 

If I ask her how she stays up for the eclipse 
of my father, her answer is the sound of a mother 
wren, pushing its young from the nest, 

depending on the metal flecks in the bone 
to line up with true north, like iron shavings 
on a page gather around the poles of a magnet 

below the surface. Which way do I go? North or farther 
into my father? If I sit perfectly still 
on the lip of the crow's nest, will I hear his fist clenching 

before it strikes the bell and sounds the alarm 
for us all? I ask my mother again, 
when will the watch end? I listen for the sound of metal 

in the bone, I hear the water start to whisper, 
bargaining with the blue flame below the surface, 
somewhere off the starboard, or is it 
the four-o'clocks?

Third Place
How West Texas Pulls the Highway's Winter Cotton
by Matthew Blue

West Texas winter is farmer faked 
when cotton is picked by machine. 
Trucks carry bales to the gin, 
scraps fly off brown skeletons in the wind. 
The drifts build up a mile coming and going 
from the co-op. A slow blink on a long drive, 
and you will see snow caught under the highway's 

skirt of weeds, and cradled in her ditch, that gully 

between the railroad's hump and electricity's tits. 

They're going to re-lay the railroad track by I-40 
starting in Vernon. The ties are black and tar coated, 
ready for a Windsor knot. Every five feet there are three 
sticks, sort of bachelor nervous waiting for the girlfriend to come 

with a clip-on. That's how West Texas waits for snow. 

Come October and November if you can't wait, 
you can always drive past the caprock, draw your eyes into slits 

and see only the highway's skirt from the backseat. 
Push your nose into the cold window--one mile coming, 
another mile going, you'll swear Christmas, and look for Rudolph's nose 
glued to the end of an oil-pump, with Santa, 

riding in that field of perpetually nodding steel birds. 

When there is a drought, the snow is skinny. 
The farmer marks the collection of rows with used tires, 
pulls irrigation lines to the edge of his field, and everything waits 
for next year. The old telephone lines with their purple glass 
hats wait for collectors, their tendons drooped and snapped, 
they pout underneath their well-off cousin wires and spit 
at the cell phone dishes, that the farmer gets money for, 
that spot in his field for the tower. 

West Texas winter is better faked. The real stuff is black ice 
and blowing drifts-there are no trees except where man put them, 
and it's better to wake up from a backseat dream believing for a second, 
you had seen snow pure and pee free. The feedlot's aroma will break the spell, 
and you only think about your DQ hamburger that's not sitting so well.

Honorable Mention
by Guy Kettelhack
About Poetry Forum

Shells of ears form on us very early in the womb: but when, 
I wonder, do we start to hear? Five months into the trek 
toward birth? If so, by January 1951 I'd first have heard his 
baritone, and surely sucked it up like serum through my 

infant otic bones. Involuntary, artless, serendipitously 
sweet: my father's voice poured from his throat as if it 
couldn't not. Its plummy rhythmic float acquainted me 
in utero with all I'd later learn I'd really want to know. 

I started violin at nine, pursuing it so I could find the secret in 
my father's tone: by twelve, through years of strangling the 
fiddle-bone, I finally had the plum in hand. I'd something 
else in hand as well: the practice of this fingered swell 

and whap proved useful elsewhere -- in my lap. The thought 
at first perplexed: vibrato had to do with sex. I had the suavest 
tremolo on polished wood! -- I doubt my father knew why my cupped 
hand had suddenly become so good. These Oedipal vibrations 

marked our parting. I found new modes of music, more appropriate 
for me. Four decades passed, then Alzheimers began to separate my 
father from himself. When I returned and found he couldn't think or 
speak, I worried that his music might have similarly leaked away. 

I sang: he brightened like an infant, sang right back. I heard the muffled 
sweetness I'd first felt when I was little more than splitting cells. Its 
ripple was the flow of blood between us. We harmonized because we 
had no choice. He died, and now I find I almost have my father's voice. 
Shells of ears form on us very early in the womb: but when, 
I wonder, do we start to hear? Five months into the trek 
toward birth? If so, by January 1951 I'd first have heard his 
baritone, and surely sucked it up like serum through my 

infant otic bones. Involuntary, artless, serendipitously 
sweet: my father's voice poured from his throat as if it 
couldn't not. Its plummy rhythmic float acquainted me 
in utero with all I'd later learn I'd really want to know. 

I started violin at nine, pursuing it so I could find the secret in 
my father's tone: by twelve, through years of strangling the 
fiddle-bone, I finally had the plum in hand. I'd something 
else in hand as well: the practice of this fingered swell 

and whap proved useful elsewhere -- in my lap. The thought 
at first perplexed: vibrato had to do with sex. I had the suavest 
tremolo on polished wood! -- I doubt my father knew why my cupped 
hand had suddenly become so good. These Oedipal vibrations 

marked our parting. I found new modes of music, more appropriate 
for me. Four decades passed, then Alzheimers began to separate my 
father from himself. When I returned and found he couldn't think or 
speak, I worried that his music might have similarly leaked away. 

I sang: he brightened like an infant, sang right back. I heard the muffled 
sweetness I'd first felt when I was little more than splitting cells. Its 
ripple was the flow of blood between us. We harmonized because we 
had no choice. He died, and now I find I almost have my father's voice.

Honorable Mention
Leaning Farthest Away From the Sun
by Dave Ruslander

Somewhere near midnight, 
blacktop reflected 
like ribbon on a package. 

Deer froze, 
their silhouettes stared 
from glittering gold diamonds. 

Pontiac pointed at a green corn moon. 
I hoped to travel beyond mystery, 
past the horizon, into imagination. 

Breeze no longer entered the open window. 
When I threw out my cigarette, 
the cherry end scattered 
an orange comet into exhausted mist. 

At the roadside, I stopped, 
stepped from my car, 
breathed in the night and realized, 
there are shades of black.

Honorable Mention
Renting purgatory
by Mitchell Roth
The Writer's Block

Between the storm window and the window pane 
there is an empty space in which nothing occurs 

This vacuity in the Realtor's view- 

"One wall 
paneled in frost, a floor of fragmenting leaves, and 
remnants...windswept in. An ample safe harbor 
along the boundaries of paradise and demise." 

It is a shop window fogged over a vacancy. 
A crow's mirror a housefly has rented as a fence. 
Eight thousand views of emptiness. Eight thousand views of 
a single crow and a single smokestack. 
Eight thousand ways to discover 
nothing to eat. He will stiffen to an aesthetic. 

Honorable Mention
When She's Eighteen: A Pantoum
by Eve Anthony Hanninen

My thumb traces the sumi rat, 
its haunch an ink comma 
round as an apricot half, 
inhabiting strokes on a book cover. 

Haunches, inky commas, 
and I don't sleep, while oracles 
come to life from a book's cover, 
jump along my knuckle and a rafting hand. 

I don't sleep, seeking oracles 
-- index finger arrows to a random page -- 
await magic to jump the knuckles, raft my hand; 
justifications plagiarized into omens. 

My index arrows a page 
and I don't weep when the rodent leaps - 
my justifications vault into omens 
and up my sleeve tucks, gnaws my cuff, bears a litter. 

I don't weep when the rodent leaps, 
because a man waits, 
too, like a mouse up my sleeve, bearing his litter 
of expectations: in another twelve years. 

A man waits, too sure, says 
When she's eighteen, I'll buy my trailer - 
no expectations until I get there - 
head west; leave my blinker on all the way. 

When she's eighteen, drive my trailer west, 
where you'll be waiting; 
laugh to see my blinkers on 
and wipers clicking counterpoint. 

I'll not be waiting. 
Our summer illusion chafed, 
rubbing counterpoint to his children's needs: 
Wednesday ice cream, football Friday, Barbie shoes. 

This summer's illusion chafed 
as a too-small ring upon my finger. 
He missed ice cream on Wednesday, football on Friday 
and cried when he spoke of his youngest daughter. 

There's a silver ring on my finger 
I sometimes swing on a pendulum, 
try not to cry when I think of his daughter, 
or consult any handy oracle. 

My mood sometimes swings on a pendulum, 
arcs round like halves of an apricot. 
Downswing, I consult any handy oracle, 
upswing, my thumb traces the rat. 

February 2004
Judge John Poch

First Place
by Katey Nicosia
Enter the Muse

A winter wren flits from bush to bush and tweets. 
Everything moves in its tune as if this part of the world 
is a montage scored in chatters and flits. 
My hands hook the luggage handles. Mother hides 
her leaks, prevents a scene. I have my keys 
and the wad of money dad gave me. 
Mother makes sure I packed my shoes. Dad pats me 
on the back and says, “Nice knowing you.” He laughs, 
but it’s true. The me they served peaches to 
is not the me they’ll see in a month or two. I'll be ripping 
columns from the evening news in a neon city. 
I’ll have a green canteen and sarongs of grape leaves. 
I’ll be shoveled under sandaled feet, planted like poppy seeds. 
Leaving the driveway, I wave like I’m on deck 
with a hanky in my hand, fussing in the salty sky, 
the ship’s hoots stressing the white-sailed scene. 
This is how it should be. A distance swelling 
by a driver with a license and that new car scent. 
I can't see around the backseat packed with boxes, 
so I don’t know if they’ve gone inside yet, but my hands 
are on the wheel, and I can still hear the winter wren, 
the tune of the latest me, that song I’ll sing at sea.

Second Place
Poems from the Train
by Katy Maslow
The Critical Poet

I want to fold into the man 
sitting beside me 
on the train.  

We should wrap ourselves into one, 
I'd like to turn and say,  

the way my grandmother folded 
her soul into dough 
smacked against the butcher's block,  
the way she folded me into her arms 
and crushed the breath 
from my joy.  

I should surround you with me, 
I'd like him to turn and say,  

the way these tracks 
stretch their many arms 
into sleeping towns,  

the way clouds pile on clouds 
out our window,  

the way your eyelids drape autumn eyes 
as the sunset enveloping the sky 
becomes too beautiful to bear.  

love is never an essential  

and words I stack 
in the dusty cracks 
of my knuckles  

cannot throw shadows 
against gripping hope  

there is no blowing back wishes 
or snatching them 
from the thieving wind  

they will only flee faster 
like a bobbing balloon  

that hasn't been caught 
in twisting twigs  

redhearted women 
hold babies 
to breasts  

and bluehearted men 
hold breasts 
to chest  

kiss sweeping eyes  

fold desires 
into winter coats 
and stick sweating 
gloves into pockets  

to save for later 
when the chilling winds 
pick up  

I do not believe the reflections 
in the window -  

the faces locked in blur, 
the harrowing colors 
of echoed sun.  

not me, either -  

not my sad eyes, 
arched brow, 
and lips forced to pout 
into a beautiful stare.  

not the only one looking in 
and looking back,  

not me, either.

Third Place
by Adam Joshua Liszkiewicz
Enter the Muse

There is a little pond in my backyard. 
A fish of some kind lives there  

alone. During the summer months 
the pond fills the air with stink,  
the surface is clouded with greens 
and grays, with things living  

and dead. I do not feed the fish. 
He seems to live off nothing at all.  
I think of this while my coffee 
cooks slowly on the stove.  

The heat went out last night 
and I could barely stand it, shuddering  
all night with nothing for comfort 
save my blankets and a second pillow.  
I rub a little grime from the window, 
turn on the water in the sink.  

Steam rises from my hands.

Honorable Mention
The Sky is Falling
by Jim Tilley
The Critical Poet

There is always something falling 
from the sky around this island home- 
some small, hard acorns  

raining from the green clouds 
of a liveoak to lie beneath the leaves 
of St. Augustine grass, a hail of hickory nuts  

scattering across freshly turned soil 
to dry under the sun and split their skins, 
a palmetto branch breaking free  

after a violent storm, its paper blades 
slashing the air a final time. Not to be struck 
by such endings (and beginnings)  

on a stroll through the yard is to lose 
one's connection with the world 
whose dome has cracked. Little by little  

the coward in us begins to squeak his distress 
with would-be gods whose terrors fall 
even where the great blue heron  

overshadows the stealth bomber 
and snowy egrets eclipse the fighter jets 
resting at the Air Force base. Across the marsh,  

the paper factory spews another million 
reams on which to print the news: 
One more Blackhawk has plummeted-  

atop hot sand another score of men 
lie wasted, their skins baking in the sun, 
their spirits seeking shade beneath some grass.

Honorable Mention
Concert on Columbia River Gorge
by Eve Anthony Hanninen

Sixty-thousand hungry shouting  
voices split this canyon - see  

where shrieks of laughter tumble  
haphazardly, like scattering pebbles  

fallen drop-offs deep. Hawk  
and helicopter pass at angles  
in steel sky, both alarmed by human bodies  

waggling stumpy branches,  
lofting butane stars that wink  
at the winds skirling dim twilight.  
The music rounds and swells  
in balloons of sound, reverses  
neatly in the Gorge's mouth;  
consummate bubblegum blower that sucks  

back its own art.

Honorable Mention
With Buster Keaton And Hieronymus Bosch In My Head
by Jim Zola
The Melic Review

Sky drizzles cars 
With headlights on 
The street is a painting 
Of a black and white movie  

My lover calls on my cell 
To tell me she’s holding 
Herself hostage 
Tapping the butter knife on the counter 
As proof  

This morning I take my car into the body shop 
A vicious mutt strains at a chain 
The sign on the window says 
Deliver all packages to the tattoo shop next-door 
A man with a wrench the size of the moon 
Smears grease on the one spot of his face 
Still white 
We’ll take care of you he smiles  

Meanwhile the streets threaten to mute 
Back into cliché  

I frown myself happy 
Afraid to look up  

Where a naked nun rides a fish across the horizon

March 2004
Judge John Poch

First Place
by Teresa White
The Melic Review

Venetian blinds allow in bars of light
and an orchestra of sparrows
chutter in the locust tree.

I have lived here long enough
to know the universe is carpeted,
draped, that mountain ranges loom
in National Geographic, glossy
pictographs I cipher with my fingertips.

I am not deprived.
I have seen rivers on TV
reflecting light like mica on the screen,
heard the music fly fishermen make,
their supple lines snapping through the air.

Not even the jaws of life
could wrench me from this room
where I grow old with you,
where a flamingo is a black and white bird
in a dictionary. 

Second Place
Empty Bowl
by Charlene Dewbre
Desert Moon Review

My mother would stand at the table, 
a pillar in cheap cotton 
and vanilla extract. She showed me 
how to mix ingredients just so. 
I coveted her copper mixing bowl. 

I used to dream of the small hands 
I might guide someday. Patiently 
teach them the craft of baking. 
Crack an egg or two, 
how to mix ingredients just so. 
I’m accomplished now, best cook 
in the family, they say, 
but my sister's daughter 
decorates our Christmas cookies 
while I wash and put away 
the empty copper bowl.  

Third Place
by Laurie Byro
The Melic Review

Her disease was busy 
making lesions in the brain. 
She sat on the couch, eating Ben 
and Jerry’s, dodging guilt 
about how her day had been. 
It was Valentine’s Day. 
She was starting a love affair. 
She was tired of writing poems 
about deer in the woods, or snow falling. 
She was thinking about endings. 
The thought of need and dependence 
depressed her. She bristled when 
the well-intentioned changed the subject 
or stopped picking fights. 
The jeans had come from London. 
Fringed and funky, they were studded 
with a Swarovski crystal. Her husband 
said she looked hot in them, 
her navel peeking over the waist. 
She imagined the salesgirl’s expression 
as she plunged the needle into her belly. 
It was the first week she had injected 
the medicine. She was afraid of dying 
too soon to wear the jeans out or of ending 
up in a chair. 
When she had bought the jeans, she wore them 
right out of the store. She walked 
all the way home. Meanwhile, she wondered if 
the woods and the deer 
without someone to narrate them, 
would wither or startle, steal 
someone else's imagination. 

She would dutifully write about the 
current attack on her brain, her body. 
She would pick up her tablet 
filled with paper, from those woods, 
empty until then, 
so that she might record the vagrancy. 
A doe is standing in a grove of birches, 
licks the barb in her side, becomes 
startled by the taste. 
It is snowing. It is still snowing.

Honorable Mention
The Submariner
by Tracy Eastes
The Rabbit Hole

No bells or whistles sound 
to signal a warning. 
The emergency ascent leaves the cavity 
behind my eyes folding in upon itself. 

What could be the Captain's intent? 

Why risk years of anonymity 
to reveal a silent, predatory presence 
submerged just below the surface calm? 

Shouting for attention 
has yielded nothing but echoes 
in the exploration of this vessel. 
I am abandoned. 

With mere seconds before my revelation, 
I reach the bridge and find the controls locked, 
steerage jammed. There'll be no more 
skimming along the bottom in concealment. 

After porpoising between the two elements, 
the ship powers down, settles in the waves. 
I make my way topside to stretch, breathe untainted air, 
unwind. With no need of further stealth, 
I openly stride the deck 
laughing at the wide-eyed stares greeting me 
from shore line spectators, convinced 
of their personal security by the distance 
between us. 

I'll wait for cover of darkness, 
break out the Zodiac 
from stores, slip it over the sides, 
steal ashore and begin the villager's education.

Honorable Mention
The Art of Woman
by Michael Virga
The Atlantic

Winter Wednesdays in a museum studio 
I sit  stand  and strike poses in full attire 
for "drawing from a live model" 
an art class composed of women 
instructed by a woman artist   At first 
the view lacked perspective  but our 
humors were as clay balanced & shaped in time 
the space soon becoming focused as a closer rapport 
took form they all agreed I was a suitable subject 

By the second week I discovered the cafe upstairs 
I met the lady manager & we too made a working acquaintance 
She allowed me ice water at break times   
and once on a Saturday when I was short on change 
her cashier Lulu lent me the fifty cents 
I needed for a neopolitan pastry   Back in the studio 
Rollina presented a colorful comparison 
to illustrate a 3D drawing technique:  Imagine 
while drawing  Michael's image 
being carved in the round of an apple pulp 
We all found the viable analogy in good humor  I responded 
by adding the figure was pleasing to my poetic energies 
perhaps it would appear in one of my writings   
and as they were drafting I was drifting 
back to a younger time 
sitting at the kitchen table of a kind grey-hair'd 
mediterranean woman   Her gently wrinkled hand 
caressing my brown curly head  making me stronger 
by blessing me with sistine memories 
to keep us secured as we travel 
in different realms but never really apart   when even smaller 
I would rest on the living room carpet at her feet 
She dozes in her crescent chair while I watch television 

The variation on the third turned 
into communal reward as I sat in calm repose 
watching too as students attentively observed the master-artist 
spend the first twenty minutes rendering 
in charcoal on blue-grey quality paper 
the face of a man-child  the pensive aspect of a poet 
At the close of our midterm meeting 
she offered  signed  and dated the fine portrait 
after I expressed how it would make a great gift 
for my father's birthday tomorrow   The next week I brought in 
a concrete-poem  a picture painted with words  signed & dated 
about a cathedral-castle constructed in honor of a legendary lady 
I recited it for her & her students 
wearing the chap cap she placed on my head 
sitting in a reading position 
while they were drawing 
the planes of the face 
the lengths of arms & legs 
the contours of torso & shoulders 

Slightly surreal describes the fifth 
a warm winter day and beneath 
a blue hooded lightweight jacket 
I wore my black Matisse t-shirt 
with the red sphere in the chest 
of a dark silhouette floating 
through a yellow starry midnight-blue sky 
then midway through 
one blond lady in love with learning 
(and so with living) 
told us she had a vision of Michael 
in her dream the week before   I waited a polite pause 
before inquiring   She responded 
she just remembered when she woke 
my image from the night before   and in the morning after 
her husband explained how artists often see 
in their sleep their models   She had missed that week 
I told them the way pre-Raphaelites  19thC painter-poets 
held close ties with their models 
From the chair on the platform I continued on 
about Rodin & his model  ruby muse & mistress  Camille Claudel 
leading me to mention the Jungian idea 
about how the silver-touch of a good woman 
molds bronze & empowers a man 
like when love gave the old man Rodin new wings 

At their request 
I read my latest lyric 
about inspiration from new experiences 
found while engaged in a concurrent workshop 
where I was a visting poet   And on the sixth Wednesday 
while they are putting on the finishing touches 
I will recite this one for them 
along with "La Pieta" 
dedicated to my father's mother 
(she asked them for their love and nothing more) 
an art poem 
giving color to marble 
justified to the left 
since recently studied 
and revised again 
mostly by women 
After announcing the finale selection 
as the poetic-documentation 
(a reading between the lines) 
of our on-going collaboration 
we decided I would deliver the overview 
as a serial during our 3 pauses 
They would step back to inspect their progress 
and listened with interest 
to a wordsmith's voice 
recollecting in phases 
the creation from our lines 
The recitation including the cameo piece 
was well-received 
with respect to us all 
we all agreed 
we were an inspiration to each other 
As a memoir 
I made a visit to 
and took a farewell look at each easel 
to compliment their compositions 
to remember their styles 
a young mother and graphic artist 
presented me her drawing 
with my profile bowed to the left 
We noticed a resemblance to Sting 
I asked if they had seen him on television 
performing live at the music awards 
the night before   and did they know 
he used to be an English professor 
before he became 
a successful songwriter

Honorable Mention
by Katey Nicosia
Enter the Muse

"In a certain sense all of us are running." --Kierkegaard

I watch her every morning at breakfast. 
Her back against the bark, she sits in the Oak’s shade, 
her mouth open as if she’s singing or speaking 
to a mockingbird who hobbles in a spray of leaves. 
Her cheeks are smudged pink like a rash or sunburn. 
The morning never changes: this table, this coffee, 
this spoon circling stirs. The painting. 

Today I get up to take a closer look. 
Her hand covers a yawn the size of a pill, 
a small pebble. She props to her knees 
and looks at me. I pinch her off the canvas, 
perch her on the lip of my coffee cup. Her legs 
flop over the edge like the strings of two tea bags. 

She’s barefoot and beautiful but her features 
are smeared and leaky. We don’t say anything 
like we're long-time friends that lack 
the arrival of news, but I can tell she’s bored 
or expects something from me. She crosses her arms. 
They bleed into the pink of her sweater. 

She looks away in a pout, her bottom lip poking out 
in a bristle’s stroke. I look up to the wall 
where she usually is. The canvas drips 
like an awning after rain. The Oak tree 
yolks in a blob of tempura to the floor. 
“Why is it running?” I ask her, but she’s gone. 
Footprints path from the table to a puddle of paint. 

I lifted her from the wall. Now the painting is gone. 
Is this what happens when you stare at art for too long? 
Outside it’s raining, and I can’t remember 
if I’m the woman an artist once loved 
or the woman trailing footprints down the sidewalk, 
whose face is bleeding black.

April 2004
Judge John Poch

First Place
"Villanelle For An English Professor"
by Mitchell Geller
About Poetry Forum

He bores us in a hundred different ways, 
This endless cornucopia of quotes, 
This master of unparalleled clichés. 

With every glib MLA Journal phrase, 
(Recalled from furtive fannings through his notes) 
He bores us in a hundred different ways. 

You catch him off his guard, and he betrays 
A local accent – is it Terre Haute’s? – 
This master of unparalleled clichés. 

And though the erudition he displays 
Seems genuine, when he over-emotes 
He bores us in a hundred different ways. 

For classrooms simply aren’t the same as plays, 
Despite the histrionics he promotes, 
This master of unparalleled clichés. 

He rants and raves, insensate to the daze 
That fills the room, the yawn-constricted throats. 
He bores us in a hundred different ways, 
This master of unparalleled clichés.

Second Place
One Twenty One
by Dick Case
Melic Review

Let's have it for Natalie , Natalie 
Jean walking the neighborhood, 
looking for licorice 
in pleated pink pants, 
a little fatter the day after 
she was alone with a whole bird 
stuffed with crumpled bread. 
Forget her brother. 

He walked away from want 
with enough to cross the river 
before nuts and bolts shut off 
the flow of a morning broken 
on the stone beneath his feet 
with the bones of Natalie's bird. 
He blows white from an egg, 
then swallows the yoke. 

Wouldn't you know, this is over 
before anyone understands. 
The river isn't in Natalie's 
neighborhood and the bird 
should have flown its coop. 
While the bolt enters the nut, 
her brother walks into town, 
twisted candy in his hand.

Third Place
Pictures of the Bisti
by Terry Lucas
About Poetry Forum

How her best friend, Kip, who was her lover 
just that one time on the bus trip 
their senior year in college, blanket 
in the back seat, under four corners 
moon, somewhere in New Mexico 
between the Bisti Badlands and Angel Peak, 
told her— 

"When you're drunk, the shutter is wide open, 
the F-number is bigger 
than the weight of two brains combined, 
but there’s no film in the camera 
and who’s to say what love is 
when captured?" 

How she’d seen pictures 
of one-armed grooms with torn satin lapels 
curled up inside Jerry Falwell 
Old Time Gospel Bibles, ripped apart by in-laws 
from white taffeta gowns, grand 
children floating in the air, holding balls 
of white-out between their legs, bodiless 
arms lifting them up on ponies, giraffes, leaping 
goats, horse-head barber chairs, 
sea monsters with double tails—an offering 
of saddles and blankets of wood 
on a carousel of matched pairs. 

How she still drank wild 
photons that left no tracks, 
still rode the soft blanket 
of unopened love.

Honorable Mention
by Jim Corner
Desert Moon Review

Upstairs, a paneless window 
faced the lawn toward the gravel road. 
Elm shadows taunted the room 
in the half-light. Corners strewn 
with newspapers, clothes stiffening 
in the dust, never worn. 

In the woods behind the barn, 
where Jack was put in the moon 
for burning brush piles on Sunday, 
a rain crow cooed a warning 
of showers on this sticky summer day. 
The field beyond, where the Progfeld boys 
chased me home. 

Dingy tents, patched with denim 
and magenta tape, the berry pickers, 
gypsies, roaming the farmland. 
What magic spun within the walls, 
cast upon us by night? 

The wasp stinger I found on the sill, 
still alive, stung my finger. Beside 
it, the mysterious skin, wrinkled 
and wet. Father said it was a beetle's 
shelter shed just after its mating. 

My reoccurring dream of the Eddy Bridge, 
white locomotive steam so volatile to face, 
yet intermittently cleared. What was under 
the bridge? I remember; strange, Mom does not. 

I laid on a quilt of patched wool and velvet 
near the window, beside me a girl of five; 
night train rattled the pane, shook 
the wall, passed into the planet's shadow.

Honorable Mention
Tabular Conjuncture
by Linda Goin
Café Utne

Canned peas and a slab of tofu 
designed to resemble beef 
nestle together on a plastic plate so green 
the peas vie for attention. 
A homely fruit jar filled with ouzo 
stands within an inch of this simplicity. 
At my fingertips lie three books: 
one is opened to a Tiepolo fresco; 
another is opened to the American constitution 
(Amendments, Article I, about dressing 
and redressing grievances); 
and yet another is opened to smiling irises. 
This last book is leather, with imperial stamps 
that flatten edges along gilt-rimmed pages. 
I push that book away, afraid. 
I've watched irises wilt. 

Tofu, peas, more ouzo, please. 
Tell me that Tiepolo was rich 
when he was born, tell me that he inherited 
Raphael and Veronese. Tell me, books, 
how he created this woman, bare-breasted, 
astride an alligator, her eyes focused 
on the architect of Würzburg, 
a dandy who lies straddled over a barrel 
(filled with echoes, no doubt). 
All the musicians lean to the left, 
and all their instruments lean to the right. 
Tiepolo created a slippery surface, 
where he realigned feathers, ostriches, 
camels, and disdainful, dark-skinned women 
with his own allegory for heaven. 

Two peas escaped, but no damage done. 
The amendment is splattered 
with a tad of tofu and A-1 sauce, 
but the lines are still too legible. 
That book will stay open 'til it dries, 
but Tiepolo is shelved 
with other books about memory, 
creativity, intelligence, and goals, 
including something about DaVinci, 
and something else about horizons, 
where these lines should land, 
high or low, or right in the middle. 
Just like Goldilocks, heh? Or was it the bears? 
The bears. Chicago. Liquor store down the road. 
The leather irises stay, shut, their smiles bloom 
forever purple between slim gold rims.

Honorable Mention
Seeing Margot
by Ron Lavalette
The Melic Review

Two or three times a month or more 
I tell her about being rounded up 
for extermination, or running out of pills 
in the middle of the night. Sometimes 
she waits patiently while I caress my lies 
or opt, instead, to spend my time describing 
the baby I found frozen on the lawn. Sometimes, 
following her upstairs, I think about how I 
left Dr. Zimmerman high and dry, owing him 
thousands and thousands of dollars 
and I remember Trudy back in Brattleboro, 
watching me leave and asking if I'd gotten the cure. 
Yesterday I let my watch read 11:50 all day long. 
Late in the morning, something like snow came 
spitting down, overwhelming my wipers. 
Crossing Main near midnight, I saw Margot 
through the windshield. I wanted to get out 
and tell her that I've lived before, tell her 
that the exterminators are coming around 
to gather us up again, that I need to see her now 
for an hour or so, that I need to have some coffee 
right away, that I need to take my pills again 
before I go home and scrape the baby off the wet grass.

May 2004
Judge C.J. Sage

First Place
I No Gone Cat, You Just Not See Me
by Brenda Tate
The Critical Poet

I almost sleeping when he come. He say,
"Cat, why you not look up? Eyes see all
that be, until breath stop. Watch with eyes."
When I open, he shine like morning, right
here in scary place. Two-leg mother
with me, talk touch, talk touch. I not
try stretch out claws, even after
she hurt my ear and trap me tight
for bring where are other sick ones.

"She love you," Sun Cat say, "so she
want help you better but not time now
for her do that." He stand close and then
I sitting beside him with no sore ear,
and ribs not breaking under. Puss on
table lie quiet, black-white like me.
He big fluffy boy with paws curled
and hay in tail. "What barn cat be this?"
I not want new enemy and he mighty
long fur but no move, him. Red earstick
and face shut off. "He be you, name Sam."

Now I not smartest scratcher in litter box
but I know me and not-me, and him not me.
He stiff as shavings frozen in stall when I
dig for cover pee. He a dead old buddy.
I with friend who glowing all around.
It dark everywhere but Gold Mister jump –
just like that – off table in air. "Hurry,"
he call me. "You not my only today."

And we outside, where is car and Two-leg
mother. She cry water salt on box in arms
and other two-leg carry cage but it empty.
We watch her go away and I very sad
for I remember she have love me.

"You tell goodbye," Gold Mister speak
and surprise me. "Where your barn is?"
Before I answer, we there. Stray tom stand
in loft where I like fight him. "No,"
Gold Mister tell me though I not talk this.
"His now. He need home; you have fine
other place. Not worry about him more."

Tom my enemy once but I no problem
for him now. Farm dogs run, maybe smell
me. They stop in path and grin so I tell
what happen. Hope they figure out.
"You gone away?" young stupid one ask.
Grey-muzzle lick at shadow and understand.
"We meet soon," I tell her. How I know?

Others not outdoors but we are in house
and not through window, either. "They
allow see you this one day," Sun Cat
explain, so I say we miss each other.
I make sorry for not always be friendly.
I mean son-of-a-tabby sometimes.

Car in driveway and Gold Mister
show me strange thing. Two-leg mother
dig deep deep deep, toss earth stones roots
and put plastic bag at bottom. It have
paw press against, white like Sam foot.
Wet in there so she shovelthrow sawdust too.
"That from pile beside window where I napping
in winter." Gold Mister not speak. "Why I
leave her? Just young fellow; needed here, me."

He spin bigger than fireball that fall
from summer. "Job done," he roar. "You get
her ready for bigger sorrow." I understand
what he mean. She have ancient woman-
mother who very sick. She lose me, learn
get strong. But hard not tell her I watching.
She never even hear meow or feel tail brush,
before snow cover not-me. "You visit back
one time," is all what I allowed. Then he
tell me stare at sun, no see home anymore.

They aster flowers where we hunt today. Old
cat mama near, even Siamese friend find me.
Gold Mister teach me how go back,
be some new kitten when I finish learning.
But this good place and I happy Sam now.

Second Place
Dancing in the Dark
by Guy Kettelhack
About Poetry Forum

"O rose thou art sick," Blake said,
predicting the dead
in a blossom, depicting decay
in inordinate life.

All life is inordinate: Tragedy
lurks in the bud, and winter
curls up in the spring.
But when darkness comes after

Sometimes you hear laughter
rise up from dead ends of the thing
that you loved. There's a secret
enclosed in a hand that's ungloved

by despair. A whisper can tickle
you like a soft breeze 
a tiny reminder, the gentlest nudge
that's less tragic than tease.

All passion's irrational,
caring too much is the way
of the heart. But the oddest
disparity! Seems that hilarity

hides in the center of loss:
whatever destroys also seems
to enjoy making sure that you toss
yourself full into chance.

That's when you dance.

Third Place
Old Dance, Same Tune
by Patricia McFarland
Café Utne

The old man, he mumbled, grumbled,
tumbled from rationality.
He got that old malaria again?
visitor asked conversationally.
Old nurse hovered, shivered,
quivered in agitation.
He'll die soon says she--
he picked up the bug
in the rich men's war dug
up out of meanness and greed.
Old men had need
of more everything to feed
their thirst, the worst
pursed the call
to young men to fall
into step in craters blasted
by hate and the quest,
the wresting of power,
raising the flag of death
on unmapped battleground.
She tramped around the bed, chatting,
patting the hand of the man
asking questions with no answer,
her old scuffed shoes from days bygone
when she and the old man had won
dance contests, before carnage
became an everyday thing
in that place of emerald dreams.
Mama, brace yourself! I'm coming home!
he cried in fever-slurred words heard
only by old nurse who nuzzled his cheek,
knees weak. Not today, sweet thing.
I'm with you and you can't go.

Honorable Mention
Making Love to the Right Angel
by Christopher T. George
Desert Moon Review

I think I have the correct day on my calendar,
a smell of lavender and tar. Hmmmm, darling.

Black irises and purple daffodils, a city
rising from a swamp, refrigerators, tires.

We clink glasses in the empty restaurant,
a ring of crystal like a big brass bell

as Merlot swirls in our goblets. A menu written
in code, obsequious waiter speaks a strange lingo

but it doesn't matter to either of us, a swish
of wings from your angel mates outside checking

on you. You angels are so insecure. Do I look
to you like a serial lover of angels? Your

feathers tickle, I have to admit, the love-
making could be more comfortable. We hardly

notice how the steel furniture sticks into
our tender parts, I feel as if I am floating

over the city, riding a lightning rod, hoo hah,
I'm coming home, a white dove, heavens above.

Honorable Mention
Sitting in Weldon Kees Car
by William Neumire
The Writer's Block

On the darker wings of sunset
Are shadows in which the eyes lose sight;
There's a bridge I have not crossed, yet

It threads its black line, an egret
Tracing across a Marsh's dim light
On the darker wings of sunset.

Below, in the bay, trawlers let
The weather move them, but I recite:
"There's a bridge I have not crossed yet"

In the visor shadow, the net
Of city bulbs perforating night.
On the darker wings of sunset

There are two camps now: one is wet
With need to tell, one leaves no insight.
There's a bridge I have not crossed, yet

I'm here to move or to forget
The way erasure swallows, a rite
On the darker wings of sunset.
There's a bridge I have not crossed. Yet.

June 2004
Judge C.J. Sage

First Place
by Shanna Karella
Café Utne

I had a pointed fish
and the word "Look!"
forked in my direction
as we argued ourselves
blue with held-breathe screamings
over dinner last night.

Today I sit amid the cosmos
and daisies and marigolds
crayoning my last stand
in big, bold letters.
It reads:

"Neighborhood Closed"

and I'll wage it
war-like at your head,
this, my brown-paper flag
of resignation.

The doors are slammed
and windows shuttered.
Polite entreaties (if proffered)
can slide their way down the walls
and pile themselves in heaps
of tangled alphabets
upon the stoop.

There. I've taped it over
the threshold. Excuse me.
I have flowers to arrange.

Second Place
Mise En Place
by Alex Stolis
The Writer's Block

I should have left her alone. She looked different
than before--must’ve been her hair or the way
she knocked down purity’s etiquette. She changed
the tint on her lips, told me love is at once automatic

and incongruent. I should have left it all alone--her
picturesque ideas of how mountains should melt
over the sky, the thought that Hermaphroditos
would come through the window in search of a quiet

place to rest after sex. She never understood that pain
between two people could burn words into marrow
but she was ingenious enough to remember the road
to my left hand and coy enough to lay another orchid

beside the ragged bend where there was always snow,
the only reminder seasons were ever alive. She was cold
enough to watch me struggle to grasp the time of day
and laugh when the night coughed to an empty start.

I should have been content before--when the last thing
she saw were my fingers brushing against the bedroom
wall, when the last thing she remembered was the dense
breath of winter spreading petals over a dry river bed.

Third Place
by Steve Williams
Wild Poetry Forum

Evergreens are taken by rough men
who bury the river in thumping rafts;
leather boots tread the spinning bark,
the logs run the men.

Tri-masts define the tall ship,
they anchor taut sails as she surges
through swells and spray,
the sea sails the ship.

We circumnavigate each day,
the body seismographs the hours,
ink of sweat stains the air,
we cause passage of the day.

* * * *

Her breath is cool on the molten glass
that turns on iron rod;
a globe of agate brass woven from memory
behind cool eyes.

The bottle is wide mouthed, full bellied;
glow acquiesces to green tinged clear;
a golden rainbow in sunset
that surrenders to broken dusk.

Her hull is pushed through the bottle mouth,
the common string pulls the masts upright
above her bronze body, twisted strands of hair,
the varnished woman of the prow.

July 2004
Judge C.J. Sage

First Place
by Sarah Sloat
Desert Moon Review

When I could not get with child
I swallowed the egg of the meadowlark
who eats the daylight,
the mother of untangled grasses.
A long drop, the egg bore its root
in my foot, it stitched me
together with grain.
I am patient now; I am not damaged by waiting.
Languid as a coming rain, stalks
inch alongside my veins to the tips
of my fingers. A grassland has thirst,
so does a fire,
a cup,
the color of dough,
so while I sleep the moon creeps
between my poised teeth to feed
and flood me with moonwater.
When I speak, the scent
of lengthening wheat overwhelms me.
Shoots rise straight up
and don't droop as tears,
don't fail like questions;
they get on with growing.
I hold a handkerchief
over my mouth to veil the clover
and bees that tickle my throat,
but the angel
who's due at my tent
won't catch me laughing.
A kiss would do it.
One sprinkle of milkwhite salt
and I'll break like bread at your table.

Second Place
by Laurel K. Dodge
The Writer's Block

The hearth is always dark--
I initially left the second h off,
a Freudian slip, an (un)intended typo.
All this kindling, and yet
between us we can't seem to build
a fire to warm this chilled house.
No home, this. I read his poem out loud
because I know you hate poetry.
You interrupt, devil's advocating:
A bridge isn't a stringed
instrument--but picture the Brooklyn
bridge, I almost say, how it looks
like a viola tipped on its side--
and winter's not long enough to describe
the heart's Ice Age--oh, but honey,
what of the thaw?. I wouldn't anthropmorphize
night--why not?--stars aren't lidless eyes-
-but they are! can't you feel them watching?--
the moon's just light, not a wound
in the sky that keeps pulling
out its stitches--no, that's me,
that thread is mine. And the owl's constant
hoot is not a lamentative question--
you're wrong--I've listened
to it mourn my lonely hours.
We don't have to give night false
life; we know how hopeless the dark is--
and yet it's the bright light of day
that's always stripped me faithless.
I give up, put the book back on the shelf,
and look out at the crocuses poking
through the snow. I think of a woolly
mammoth's bones, buried deep in the hard
ground where no one can see them
and doubt anything could withstand
such coldness. Later, I come back and tag
on the real ending: and doubt love,
like that massive animal, ever existed.

Third Place
nearing the center of the conch
by Dick Bowler
The Critical Poet

This pink hallway spirals inward.
Floors slope up and walls bloat
out. There are no corners no.
No corners.

Eat a single ridge of kernels
then curve the cob then
curve the cob then.

In this sack so many things are red.
These wings are cracked, said a voice,
These splices are fraying. What choice
long chosen sliced along the seam?

Type a single line of letters
then return the carriage then
return the carriage then.

This caterpillar, green as the leaf it eats,
retreats, chewing one end to the other
end chewing. When I poke this bug
it curls around a center of legs.
It thinks it is a pebble and no trouble
can beslubber it no trouble.

Lay a single line of tiles toward the eastern window
then recoil to the western wall then
recoil to the western wall then.

In this sack so many things are wet.
Here are the eyes you lost, said a voice,
They're broken. What choice?
They're broken.

Honorable Mention
Venus-Mars Dialogue
by Mitchell Geller
Desert Moon Review

"Men are all bastards and women are bitches,"
She said as she emptied her second large glass.
"Women are bastards, and men can be bitches!"
He said, and he knows it, as sometimes he switches
To priapic bulges from pandoric niches,
Though both, they agree, are a pain in the ass.
"Men treat me badly. They take me for granted,"
She groaned, and the Liebfraumilch label just grinned.
"Women don't want me until I have panted,
And poetry drips from my lips!" While he ranted,
She took a new bottle and swiftly decanted
It into their glasses like rain in the wind.
"Men have it easy. They don't have to hassle
With birth control compact or IUD coil.
They all want a woman to maintain a castle
Where he can be king so that she can be vassal!"
"Oh, bullshit," he said, "That's a little too facile.
Your one-sided view simply makes my blood boil!"
"Oh, does it?" she stormed, "Well, you're never the victim
Of hard-hats who gawk when you walk down the street!"
"Neither are you" he guffawed, and she kicked him.
(In accordance with her self-defense teacher's dictum.)
"Well when they do gawk, you do not contradict 'em!"
He accused, and then both of them rose to their feet,
Quite unsteadily. Both looked exceedingly haggard.
"You're a pig!" she declared, "just a chauvinist boor.
You're a sexist, a swine, you're the worst sort of blackguard!"
"I'm not. I am liberated," he proudly swaggered,
And then, arm-in-arm, with the bottle, they staggered
Into the bedroom and closed the door.

Honorable Mention
detachable me
by Katy Maslow
The Critical Poet


I can’t tell anymore
if you are walking toward or away

still subway and street curvature draws you
with my hazy lazy eye, a sketch
of shoulders and jawbone browned with hazel freckles

come summer everything weighs more
until the humid limp you looked so good on paper

I keep walking past the place you stopped
intent on blindness being merely the sweat in my eyes


I’m bent over looking through my knees
the cat reversed, his checkered linoleum reflection righted

beyond him the room is below my stalactite possessions
the escher-stair boxes of books ready to sell, ready to spill
the paintings propped against the ceilingfloor
all the smiles frown, all the heavens hell

I have no part in this except for the rushing
of blood the gravity of my cheeks and hair
the cat twining about my legs
above my head and so below


the great redrimmed eyeballs of my failing gerbers
frighten me terribly, madness would be so welcome now
hanging up my hatter thoughts midsentence and

simply plucking each sore petal, deconstructing
the death of a flower

how the body dies, drooping and beautiful
summer is coming like a sadist
with a torch to scorch, blister, peel

what is my skin? the color of a peach, the rind
so I move in tight circles searching for the pit


August 2004
Judge C.J. Sage

First Place
Penelope and the Bird Man
by Laurie Byro and Ivan Waters
Wild Poetry Forum

And it is this battle of the giants
that our nurse-maids try to appease
with their lullaby about Heaven



Afterwards, unsettled, I travel
for days. The moon's bone, thin and curved,
points to a new paradise. I sweep the forest
floor, cast fishing nets into the pines
above our bed of needles.

I fill the forest with favourite things:
marmots and chattering bats. Of course,
I will add turtles and rabbits. We read to each other
by the glow of wolves' eyes, a string
of starfish, varnished fireflies.

The earth hardens beneath our backs.
I lay this bed among lady slippers and ferns.
I make him discard everything but his Argyles, loop
his pocket watch over the twig above. Bedtime,
we thrust and sing. The watch swings
back and forth, dropping minutes.

In the sleep of trees owls devise
a plan to furnish him with wings. Each morning
he sifts piles of dead birds. He doesn't fear death,
but nor do jackdaws, I'm told. Some birds
flirt with suicide, fling themselves at oak or ash:
titmouse, nightjar, bullfinch, crow.

My lover promises when his work is done
he will return to me. I will knit Argyles and wait.
Birds have given up breath for him. Among their feathers
faith now thickens, and I rinse away
their sticky blood.


It's easy to see that his purpose is love.
He unstrings the beads of time in the sun.

It's easy to see that his purpose is death.
He sings to an implacable fire.

His mother was a lapwing, his father
part kite, part nightingale. He carries her

cries back to him, as if they were coins
to unspend time, to unpawn summer.


Dear Icarus,

I envy you the bite of heaven
as I lie cradled in the earth. I saw
deer today. I glimpsed a falling
star and wanted to show it
to you. I will be faithful. I am a firefly
captured in your hands, and the forest
floor is carpeted with the dead.
The stars hang from cracks in the ceiling.
How can I be so cold in the summer?

Dear Skylark,

I saw a snake today, a brown
striped viper. I found a broken shell, and blue
was the blue of the sky. And periwinkles
were my lover's eyes, and you are free.
And I have had to let you go.
And I have let you go.

Dear Oedipus,

There was a spider
in the lighthouse, a dry web
on my face. And you have gone
to steal your father's eyes,
to put the moon in a wagon, the planets
on the backseat of your old Fuego. She waited
for you in Rapallo, she is waiting
in Dunbarton. We are all
waiting to see you drown.

Memory spirals
up the gallows hill.

Dear Peregrine, don't fall.


At night the earth shrivelled and you whispered
stories in my ear. They were not fairy tales.

If I had been truly hungry for you, if jealousy
had been a chain I'd fastened around your neck,

then I'd have coveted every hour you spent without me.
You recounted the story of a bird who started as a boy.

He set off to bring back his masterpiece.
You asked me to accept this. You wanted me to lie

under a juniper tree and wait for your return.
I am sorry you had no Ariel to carry you

home in her arms. I flinch to remember the magic
your father fed you. I was your lover, your mother,

your sister, your whore: the wine you were looking for
was locked in my pantry. I gave you as consolation

two strangers telling stories among gossiping trees,
together forging an epitaph, their happy ending.


on the griddle of the sun
our dreams melting like butter
and when you leave me
to sleep my eyelids will flutter.

Second Place
by Knut Skagen
Melic Review

Blekinge, Sweden, 2004

We found ourselves a beach.
A dirt road swirls right down to the sands
but we park and walk the last half-mile.
It’s not a sunny day, but here we are,
the best we could make of it. My son and I
name flowers we haven’t seen before—
starsweep, yellowbrush— 
and pick the berries we have. 
I show him how raspberries have thorns.
He asks me again. “What are thorns?” 


Hospital things are green. Yours is a thermometer,
a staple in the mouth every dawn, stony-faced
until the satisfaction of a beep. We make love
and I imagine it has taken root inside of you,
recording your flutters of pulse and ecstasy,
like all our sex is really for somebody else.


Clouds conceal the passing of time,
the long light and sun’s invisible trace
creating their own eternity in spe. One evening
the underbrush exhaled mist, the sea
erased itself against the whitening sky,
the seams between things unspun
into a blank horizon, and only the reeds
and fine strips of muddied sand between us
and that void. We live off air and water, after all;
is it so strange to see ourselves caught
in their fluid escape? Even while we stand
on the bank, blood-heat courting mosquitoes.
Were I to dress myself in that silver,
where would it end?


After lunch (sand gets in our bread) the sea
turns red. Algae come in from the Baltic;
not jellyfish at least. A large bird flaps overhead, so I point.
“Look, a stork!,” because we’ve told him about storks,
how they used to drop babies Santa Claus-style
down the chimney, but I think it’s most likely a heron.

Third Place
A Poem About Nothing
by Jim Zola
The Writer's Block

Nobody dies in this poem, at least not yet.

The capital of begonia is pollen.
The capital of whatever is why not.
The capital of hunger is nuggets.

Jennifer, who works for me,
comes to work flush-faced.
Itís 96 degrees and
she has high blood pressure.
After an hour, her skin is a cloud.
I tell her to go home, relax,
take her medicine.

The capital of tuxedo is holy.
The capital of locust is vibration.
The capital of wax paper is sweet.

I wonder if, by sending Jennifer home,
I might have earned a few extra tokens
towards heaven. Later, I smack
my kid on the back of the head,
not too hard, for doing something or not
doing something. I forget what.
But I figure Iím back to where I started,

The capital of myopia is yellow.
The capital of H-bomb is dandruff.
The capital of magpie is silverweed.

I stopped taking my medicine years ago,
for reasons that made sense then. Now
my wife tells me Iím tempting fate.
I am. I carry a feather in my pocket.
I swallow pins. My stomach rattles
when I walk. The feather says nothing.

The capital of Maine is Augusta.
The capital of my name is J.
The capital of this is this.

I have this sickness where I create people
and give them lives. I care about them
more than people I really know. Mrs. K drove
her bug into a streetlight. I write her
a sympathy card. Mr. N has cancer
of the fingernail. Pinky. I canít sleep
at night. Nobody dies. I repeat this
until the air around each word blossoms.

September 2004
Judge Anthony Robinson

First Place
by Lauren Leatherman
The Writer's Block

The first time I fell back,
hit my head on the pew.
No more than a plum-sized bump
but Mother dragged me down

to the empty bathroom,
woke me up with icy water.
From then on, overcome,

the world often spun.
At the childrens Christmas pageant
I watched my younger sister lead

the winged procession to
a little Mary, veiled and expectant.
My father struck a match

and lit his cigarette. Outside the car,
snow fell white and fast. Night

closed waist-deep and held us.
He called me histrionic.

Second Place
Study on Ashbery
by Kemel Zaldivar
Melic Review

All is just warming up; the whole thing
won't be like this: already someone has flipped
our snowglobe on its head,

and the little white flakes swim angrily
beneath the statue's face. It is right,
I suppose, that we airbrush a Colgate smile
on the dilemna, no matter how yellow

it becomes: for it's clear, unstated
but clear, that things will fulfill
somehow--the future wears a garland.

But though we know this even beyond knowing's
equipoise, we insist on reiterating it
each time there is some kind of silence
in the heavens, when only the wind ravages

the medlars. After all, it's not so bad:
a little painful, but definitely worth
the little sweat that falls.

Last year's rutabagas are yesterday's tomatoes,
which in turn will be next year's rubies.
We can study every stage of the project,
and give each back a solid pat.

Remember when Dawn with ineluctable song
carried us like a mom totes her young?
Or when the sky's wrath was so pervasive

it could not even be looked away from?
These, as all meanderings over petals,
mean nothing, do nothing but warm us
on cold nights, when the fire within goes dark.

Third Place
Flight Pattern
by Kathy Gay
Desert Moon Review

What is it about birds that make them able
to crest cold currents of turbulence, catch sudden updrafts,
en masse, without a wing tip touching?

It’s like a needle pulling thread through the sky
in a crazy quilt fashion but with a basic pattern in mind.

What is it about us?

He held the needle when we flew. I tagged behind
with the ragged end of thread--thought he knew our design,
but his erratic pattern of loops and downward spirals
tied me in knots he cannot pull through. So we fly

without touching, as if by the dictates of an algorithm
written to factor in the confines of a low ceiling
and walls that close in.

October 2004
Judge Anthony Robinson

First Place
Twenty-Year Marriage
by Ash Bowen
Melic Review

(for Ai) 

Beside me in bed her arm 
crosses the arch of her nose, 
and I think, Radishes, 
she is the color of radishes. 

Once we hovered above our bed 
a kiss like a paper cut 
brought us back. 

Now, I slip from sleep
and tie her to helium balloons. 

Her weight is unimaginable. 

I lean out the window and watch 
the red dots falter, ache, 
and disappear.

Second Place
Standing Before A Teacher
by Gary Blankenship
Wild Poetry Forum

A River Transformed VI: after Wang Wei's Jinzhu Ridge (4)

Standing before a Teacher

Brush to ink, ink to paper,
paper given to fire, green flames released.
The teacher spoke, "As empty as a barkless tree,
hollow as bones that strike a bamboo drum."

Masked and hooded birds, specks to the eye
disturb the branches of trembling aspens.
The wind divides a waterfall;
water dissolves rock and grass beyond tomorrow.

Why have we taken this narrow road
with its unpredictable turns,
quick drops and impossible climbs?
When we stop, do you expect to rest?

Children at play in wet red clay
laugh at how their pies taste without almonds.


The literal translation on a Chinese web site:

Wingceltis goldenrain shine empty bend
Fresh and green ripple ripples ripples
Secret enter Shang hill road
Woodcutter not able know

1. The beginning is most often translated as bamboo.

2. Wingceltis is tree used to make fine paper when mixed with rice straw.
They are often hollow and when old are venerated.

3.  Goldenrain is a large yellow flower often called Chinese lantern.

4.  The first line in Chinese (without tonal marks) is "Tan luan ying kong
qu."  Tan-luan is the name of a Chinese poet and Buddhist teacher.  
The line shows the reach of Wang's talent.

Third Place
Picnic in Palestine
by Peter Desmond
Café Utne

It was a pretty good excursion.
We went to that pond, i mean lake, Tiberias --
Jupiter, every puddle in Palestine
gets called "lake."  They should see the Atlantic.
I thought I heard the murmurs of a crowd
just the other side of a hill.  Excuse me,
a "mount."   When i got to the top I saw
a mob squatting on the ground.
It seemed boundless.   Everyone was rejoicing.
A guy offered me smoked fish on flatbread.
It was okay, but nothing beats our fish sauce.
A group under a tree invited me to sit
in its shade.  I don't usually fraternize,
but the sun was hot and they had wine.
Anyway, it turned they were here for a speech,
which made me suspect sedition.  I patted
the dagger under my tunic for reassurance,
but when this guy with flowers in his hair
started speaking, I relaxed.  He talked about peace
and didn't once complain about our army.
The lecture was a success, I'd have to say.
But that sweet wine gave me a Hades of a hangover.

November 2004
Judge Anthony Robinson

First Place
The Snapper
by Jenni Russell


Under the green one-lane suspension bridge,
a snapper naps on a large rock
close to the bank, cold brown
ripples surround its shell,
large as a round tabletop for two.
It stretches its neck west toward the sun
while tucking in its limbs.


"Isn't that an awful thing?"
Mother pours a half pot of coffee
down the drain and fills the pitcher
to make another. "Who found him?"
Grandmother wants to know.
"Jeremy Lashomb saw him swaying from the bank,
thought it was a dummy at first, a practical joke."
She adds how he was fishing for bullheads.
Grandmother crumples her paper towel napkin.
"How did he climb those rails without falling
in such a state of mind?" She wonders aloud.
"Hung himself." Mother says spilling
a tablespoon of coffee grounds. Grandmother sighs,
"Isn't that an awful thing."


Past the pink motel on the corner
        where Bob Jr. met his secretary
                on Thursday afternoons, past
                        the nameless graveyard
with headstones sinking into the earth
and moss and grass grown over the dates--
1705-17something. Past
the overpass with a rusty cylinder core, past
Bob Rickard's, who made me "Rootin Tootins"
for weeding his garden--a concoction of 7-Up
and strawberry Kool-Aid, past
the green one-lane suspension bridge
where a seventeen year old boy
hung himself when I was ten,
(the first dead body I'd ever seen)
and I watched as they lowered him.
Time dilated in those few minutes?stuck, so
that the green one lane suspension bridge
always has a body oscillating like a stopwatch
and a crowd mesmerized on the shore.
For a moment, we all look away
when the snapper wakes up and hears our voices,
hushed, excited. It tucks in its limbs,
stretches its neck, dives.

Second Place
My Only Swerving
by T. Obatala
About Poetry Forum

The bones
of my body
if broken
a certain way
can generate
light on their
That is why
i can say
the thing
that i was,
the thing
that now
has turned
into a funeral
I think hard
for all of me.
Light jumps in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

Third Place
by Susan Culver

You've seen it before but never in morning:
the pink tinged ridge, a canyon in dawning,
a river of pulse beneath it,
alive even as she dies in her dreaming, alive
and seemingly speaking. Listen.

This is the story not categorized, alphabetized,
the title you'll never see alongside Broken
Mickey Mouse Ring, Age 5, or Bicycle Accident,
Second Grade, this is the uncharted waters
of her and you try to imagine it, the way

it tells you in that still-girl voice,
I didn't think I had a choice, and you can see it:
that rage red stain; in truth,
you could always see it
reflected in her eyes, her silence and you know

how later is, that now you'll start to see
it in every black winged fledgling girl
in every curb shadow and you'll be thinking
my god, who touched her, who made her
hide in a corner, pick up a razor,

how thick was the boulder they rolled
before her, that they never heard her words?
My God, you think, this beautiful day
almost never happened at all and all
you really want is to stop thinking about it,

to start the morning over, somewhere else
on that landscape of her, all you really want
is the person you think she is,
without all the yesterdays and you know
how yesterday is, that haunting voice never shuts up

unless your hand is over it,
so you grasp her wrist, awaken her
with a kiss, but you cannot forget
the river that turns, burns beneath your fingers,
silent but alive. Oh, still so alive.

Honorable Mention
Memento Mori
by Laurel Dodge
The Writer's Block

There are keener sorrows than these.
--Jane Kenyon

Years from now, they'll excavate the bowl
while planting vegetables--potatoes and corn,
staples for a young marriage--and your sorrow
will still be whole, a blue hollow you buried
deep in the earth. Your grief, then as now,
will seem silly and small, and as intangible

as the source of a cat's purr. Perhaps she'll hold
up the fanged skull as he digs rows, and examine
the holes as sunlight pours through the sockets.
Perhaps they'll marvel at the delicate skeleton,
the arch of the back, the diminishing tail still in tact.

Perhaps as they wash their hands under the hose,
they'll feel the weight of their own bones, invisible
luggage, already packed. Perhaps, that is when
they'll begin to consciously lug it. Perhaps that night
after sex, the young wife will hold her husband's
skull and think about the soft spot on an infant's head.

Years from now, deep in the ground, you'll dream
you're still writing poems while your cat sleeps on your lap
as heavy as a newborn. The cat will awaken, leap to the floor,
run out the door and never look back, not when the rain
begins to fall, not even when a sparrow warbles.

Honorable Mention
unwholy wores
by AnnMarie Eldon
The Writer's Block

how to conquer the dilated pupils' mutineering mountainous exchanges
overcoming one lover's uncelibated baiting Judas' kiss
remiss of forgiving years forensicked by remorse
and reminiscing nightmares
trysted to sentimentality
torturous territories hearts' enclaves
secrets acknowledged within a well angered rehearsing spate
olive garden lime grove apple orchard treasure trove
any sort of grotto magic springs
the kissing gate's go first
a left off the list
the birthing Yangtze's swirling almost frozenness
the Ganges' capillary spread as seen from the moon
the reputation's credibility the crooner's schmaltz
corset farthingale my dearest yours sincerely
there are many ways to complete
illusion like the vanishing point
in Vermeer's Music Lesson
Mona Lisa's peripheral smile shenanigans
Cimabue's Madonna's blush dawn's hush equatorial shadows
the ideal body weight the AIDS survival rate
the Palestinian Gaza
pocked smashed ruins
equating physicality with fear
green light stop light red light district
trenches body bags oft quoted statistics
the clawed coagulated anhydrous bloodied disappeareds
one earring the house key a child's shoe
a sometimes-so-sorry- senior-moment
soggy cabbage
the erection
's promise
the save-face
the hot flash the
last dance missed
chance the maiden's hymen
Busby Berkeleys prancing minions
the cavernous comfort of the black and white TV
the free press the unpoliced election the coroner's post-resurrective 
piss in the pants clean sheets the fountain of youth
truth honor the ozone layer fair play equal pay
the way we used to miss other
tomorrow just another day
the apology's intentional endeavour
heaven's hell and hell's decompositional favor
Hutus Tutsis genocide's unpronounceables
389 tons of conventional explosives
between the touch of a saviour's promise
and reason's narrow gate hanging
  chads dimpled
        something accountably disgraced

December 2004
Judge David Hernandez

First Place
Searching for Poe's Grave on Halloween,
Baltimore, MD

by Jim Doss
Wild Poetry Forum

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. 
Who shall say where the one ends and the other begins?
--Edgar Allen Poe

Not here on Fayette Street
where the dull faces of commuters
stare back at us in their pilgrimage
to nowhere. Not on the sidewalk

where a dingy robin lies
like a broken doll, its missing eye
peering into the next world.
Not in the greasy smoke that braids

the air above Hardees with animal scents,
drifts into the blue haze of power plants.
Not in the used hypodermic needles
that gleam through a sewer grate,

or crushed cans of Colt 45 rusting by the curb.
Not in the red scrawl of graffiti on brick
row houses where home-boys lean
against the wall, peddle baggies of rock or weed

to walk-ups and drive-bys. Not in the purple
and black billboard advertising play by play
for the Ravens games. Perversity, Poe wrote,
is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart.

In the end, he lay face-down in the gutter,
delirious with fever, poisoned by madness
and tainted alcohol, bribed to vote
under the names of dead men for shot after shot.

Now, his features carved in garish granite
come alive in stone. Sunlight reflects
off stained glass windows. Roots strain
to topple markers in their slow crawl through soil.

The path weve walked from his Amity Street
garret traces Poes own footsteps
as he strolled with his pubescent cousin-wife
and her mother on their way to worship.

We read from Tales of Mystery and Imagination
into the sunsets orange glow, wait for his spirit
to rise through clay to accept our offerings
this bottle of cognac, and a black rose.

Second Place
Devil Tied Shoes
by T. Jacob Jans
The Writer's Block

when three I smiled at moons
painted on a clown's cheek
steamed between steel beams
threw shoes onto a bridge
years later a nail shoved rubber
up my foot, no splash no scream
just mom horrified, tweezers
pushed numb pulled warm
I didn't belong away or
home ñ neighbors
were racist, scared of bombs
played pool, watched tv porn
I had my saxophone, kung fu
felt happy cancer lasted
through christmas, god wasn't
dead, I wasn't ready
to need, to need
twenty loving years
I still don't trust entertainers
still not my lover's body rising 

Third Place
by Michael Snyder
The Writer's Block

My mother called it the lens of hate
the day of the swastika

tacked across the two-car
garage door of the Beckers

vacationing away at Myrtle Beach.
She held me like a last breath,

squeezing my chest so tight
my heart couldnít have been any bigger

than a freckle. As the banner
billowed like a spreading rash

she recited the story of the tall boy
with his basketball who disappeared

into the end of a day outside a different
window long agoóa time she fancied

herself well wearing gingham
and modest skirts. Sheíd put her hands

over her eyes, as she did mine now,
wondering aloud which stars

marked his birth, how
in the twilight his tennis shoes

glowed like twin moons,
what war he would draft into,

how the first color of every night
seemed a shade of bullet,

and about the steady orange metronome
beating up and down, up and down,

no shot in sight.

Honorable Mention
A History of the American West Part VII
by Alex Stolis
Melic Review

Juanita was driving, she told me she was the seventh
daughter of a seventh son as if that was supposed
to scare me. The ocean was so close we could feel
the salt in the breeze as it whipped through the wing
window. I didn't ever want to stop and my thoughts fell
back to the Hotel Allesandra-- she had a way that made
yesterday seem like it hadn't even happened yet.
I swear she could read my mind the way she touched
my arm then whispered if man is five then the devil
is six. Our money was running low and I never blinked
an eye while she told tales of what was around the next
curve-- she tucked her hand under her hair, waited
for me to get nervous. All I wanted was to borrow
a piece of freedom from the past until I could feel
wet sand crunch under my boots. Not once did she
mention the sadness that got caught between the tread
and spit out into the desert. I know now she could tell
the future-- she just wanted to break all the rules.

Honorable Mention
Manhattan Skyline
by Bernard Henrie
Melic Review

The first clues to your identity
are in the preserved photographs.

Garden pictorial, seed and leaf. 
I can almost smell your hair,
almost feel the orange squash
and buds where you lie down.
Muddied root, moist garland
fixed in your wet dark hair.
Resting bench, climbing trellis.

Questions from the rasping press,
Gasps from the surging crowd.
No interviews today.

Available light, fixing tray
and washing bath.

Photographed like this:

A bird, the breath half-expelled.
A single swan, the lower body
rusted into the lake.
No eye contact.
No personal questions.

Padding horse, lacquered carriage,
yellow street lamps and lighted
store fronts, outdoor tables

More interior shots:
Barefoot with a private
gleaming arch. Half-smile
into the champagne glass.
High strung. Painted lips,
satin peignoir, folds covering
the sheer leg and curved back,
one mule on, one shoe 
one mule on, one shoe
misplaced. Vintage 1956.


Camera tripods collapsed,
lights and fans in crates. 
The crew and lackeys ushered out.
Rooms empty and doors close.
The hunting cat smiles in sleep.

No interviews this time.

Upper Manhattan yawns
and dims. Cabs run
without yellow lights.
Silhouette on a 7th floor,
Owlish light and ticking clock,
one bare leg tucked under,
cool to the touch
in the smudged dawn.
Black slip, reading a serious book.
Shining Polaris, hooded lid,
blue dust at the resting eye,
aquiline nose, cheeks
rested from quarry marble.
Sheen from your face
lifting in shimmering mirage.

Wild blossoms by delivery,
a final black and white photo
the face and stem leaning
south into the new December.

No questions at this time please.

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