BEST OF 2003

BEST OF 2002

BEST OF 2001

BEST OF 2000





Winning Poems from 2005


January 2005
Judge: David Hernandez

First Place
Clarinet Redux
by Bernard Henrie
Melic Review

Rump of wind almost played out.
The curtains in and later out.

Half-drunk bees lean into phlox
and ivy beds. Birds somewhere,
but not far off.

A clarinet dropped carelessly
by the white trellis. Hair brush
and apple, a still life on the desk.

Room light becomes anemic,
ceases to move.

Scattered music sheets, metronome.
Uncapped fountain pen, letter knife,
monotonous ticking clock.

The afternoon slowly running out.

Perched in the corner of the room,
knees up and braced against the wall,
reading a letter for the third time.

You think:
she could spring at any time
and tear the beating heart from
the small cave of your chest.

Second Place
Lilies and Headstones
by Pris Campbell

Mother climbs from her grave nightly,
the moon sliding, bone white, along that
fragile passage from day's end to beginning.
She re-arranges plastic flowers, talks
to other coffin-freed friends, polishes
the naked cross that guards the faithful dead.

Lilies once bordered the shrubs
surrounding our house like a moat.
White ones. Yellow ones. Striated ones.
Soft scented sentinels poking their heads
up through the warm soil each Spring.
My mother's pride.

Fake carnations grace her headstone now.
Stiff, like the bodies lined in neat rows
beneath her; cold like her own body
which will never again climb into a warm bed
or scatter the crows that yet steal
from our abandoned cherry tree.

They suck the fruit cheerfully, despite
old clattering pans and one rotten scarecrow
with eyes picked as empty as the spaces
where lilies once danced with the wind.

Third Place
Dark Roses
by Jenni Russell

Monday afternoon Randy sends roses,
burgundy buttons posed coquettishly in a glass vase,
crossing their long stems in a pool.
The dressing room is stale with beer bottles,
weekend-beaten G-strings, half-smoked joints
and these lovely roses like bloody tears.

My palms sweat.
The strobe throws yellow halos on the wall.
Below the stairs the trebles of men peak a cheer.

In the VIP loft, a new girl brushes
a silver-haired man's hand
away from her nipple.
Her silhouette is luminescent.
The roses are reflected in the mirror
behind her as she dances.
Inside that mirror I sit beside the roses.
She sways between me and the roses.
Inside the mirror, she pushes his hand away from them.
Fingertips caress roses within roses within roses,
our worlds touch and touch and touch.
She and I--infinite bodies--silent echoes.

Twenty dollars to be swept into this fantasy,
made unaware that below the rail
another girl dances the same slow motions,
the waitress drops off a tray of shots,
the manager nurses his Curacao,
and the doctor who drank too many scotches
waits by the exit for his taxi.

The silver man reaches for the roses again,
squeezes the tips;
they pinch into a new soft form.
He's buying her image to alter later,
memorizing the aroma of her coconut lotion,
her shoulder's salty aftertaste.

There may be minutes in his mind
when he's allowed to slip a finger
into her thong, feel the smooth slit get wet,
suck her neck--a rerun played over and over--

Love is a three minute song.
Romance grinds on anonymous laps.

In ten years, the hands that grab,
tuck her into their pocketfuls of fantasy
will be like so many assumptions
that are uncomfortably easy to feel and forget,
colorless, odorless, tasteless as air

and flowers will trouble her.

Honorable Mention
On the Cusp of December
by Trace Estes
Rabbit Hole


The sun slinks into its place:
an errant teenager who'd partied all night
sneaking up a trellis to his room
to remain for the rest of the day,
dimly present, offering no illumination
on where he has been.


The morning's dampness is a whetstone
that sharpens blades of memory and need.
Old bones and breaks begin their barometric chores--
dowse the day's outcome
by the amount of pain felt.

Maroon milo tops perform Klaxon duty--
warning of an inevitable hard freeze.
Small animals leave trails through rimed grass,
eyes constantly to the sky.


Thousands of starlings serve as nature's screensaver--
an undulation above freshly reaped fields.
Hundreds spiral down in a tornado of wings
seeking grain remainders
as a harvest of opportunity.

As the multitudes mill around the stubble,
increasing brethren leave the aerial amoeba
to join the earth-bound congregation.
When some unknown number is reached--

an avian flash point--
the birds burst skyward, twist
the entire mass a few yards away and repeat
their geometry until the ground is barren.

Honorable Mention
the coroner pronounces
by Lisa Prince

a cardboard box

curbs are six inches
high when you account for heels
lifts and the wash of leaves
after a rainstorm

cereal comes in two sizes
of boxes

swaddling clothes

the average rainfall in december
is three inches

not accounting for snow

straw and other detrius

fast food packaging
accounts for two-thirds of all paper

discounting newspaper

the enquirer is not


in the womb
babies drink amniotic fluid
distinguish dark from light
hear voices

feel pain

tiny fingers have prints
like the fall of ash

February 2005
Judge Alex Lemon

First Place
In the End
by Valerie Cox

"After all you are weary of this old-time world" --Apollinaire

after all you are weary of how
your neighbor or friend says
this or that says
mysteriously did you notice
the altered swaying of
our mutual sweet gum tree
and we missed you in church again
these past few years you have
lost confidence in an assortment
of popes and lovers
you have staked much
even your life and livelihood on
your art and architecture
boxes and packages
oh how your web of dishes
and wedding gifts has expanded
and you manage
to care for your own young
a surprise and a half to
your hoary forbears
you saw them Tuesday that is
you plan to see them
next Tuesday and if they
are late you will snap your fingers
and that imaginary imp
that's been following you around
will opine and drive off
this airport boredom
the vacuous feeling left
by the overpriced beer
you almost thought you were
one of the seven wonders
of the modern world there
for a couple of minutes
and then you were strolling
along your street
pretending it was prettier
you pretend you live there
to spy on people
because you happened
to see unexpectedly someone
you know
from your youthful office
days a memory surfaces
a drink over lunch a woman's wig
the bad smell of the debutante's feet
how many times you have wished
you could fit into that small box house
a shack with black shutters
you see now how it fits on this street

Second Place
The Griot of Guantanamo Bay
by Christopher T. George
Desert Moon Review

By ember-light in an acacia clearing, she hums
an Afro-Cuban lullaby as faces watch in shadow:
blood red Caribs, Conquistadors, Communistas.

Dawn at Gitmo: a parched crescent is lapped by
Caribbean blue; skin-tearing cactus, two rows
of chain-link garnished with razor wire.

No longer just sailor accents of Flatbush or
Biloxi, liquid Spanish of Havana or San Juan;
now the guttural of Kabul, Beirut, Teheran,

of captives in prison orange in wire cages.
She claps in time to gourd rattle, calfskin
drum. She's a news-bringer, praise-singer,

carrying scars for her murdered son.
Ghost guerillas move in the shadows;
chamber click, snake hiss, panther snarl.

Patiently, the griot blows on the embers,
to illumine the future. Underbrush rustles.
A spirit conflagration sets fire to the night.

Third Place
The Wheelwright's Apotheosis
by William Neumire
The Writer's Block

I am a wheelwright, in the evening I take in the broken:
spokeless, warped, splintered, the wheels roll in,
neighbors and friends drop them off
with faces like those whoíve lost god. Who am I?
I say to myself in the dust of my tools.
I respoke the missing, rub smooth the angled,
untwist the warped, remake the utterly ruined.
I work nights. My lunch comes when the sky is dark
and birdless. In the morning I give back
what I have done to smiles and relief;
more work can be done. I will eat today
because of wheels. I will travel and read and love
and believe in god today, because of smaller gods.

Honorable Mention
Hard, Unmovable Body
by T.E. Ballard
The Writer's Block

When you are away
I move the bed closer to the wall
so your absence does not wake me.

I check, recheck
doors, a childís breathing, gather
the piles of our day,
leave them on the floor.

In translation
Ana is lonely and Celan dying
but it does not matter,
books fall from the bed.

You will never return
unless of course you do, as promised.
Doubt moves in

sets up residence
and this knowledge of need,
the very need of you

straightens my back
against the wall till I sleep.

March 2005
Judge Alex Lemon

First Place
That I was here
by M
Desert Moon Review

Of polished wood and desolated space
I have grown weary -- most of the case goods
auctioned or given away. I speak to buyers
about first-rate schools, unobstructed views
of city lights over the ridge when fog
dissipates. I do not tell them my husband
died here, mine the only mind appalled
by the eyesore of a corpse on the carpet.
This house is finished with me, done gulping
from decanters of grief and guilt. It pines
for the melody of children ringing in the hall
like the glittering ping of glass wind
chimes. On the eve I am to leave, I trace palms
over newly painted walls, mourn the loss
of fortuitous stars on the ceiling. Press my body
against the bedroom floor where he was laid,
surrender impressions of Rafflesia blooms.
Flatten lips on cold kitchen tile, repeat
my name over and over, as if it could
repine beneath the eaves of my absence.

Second Place
Handless Woman
by Lynn Sweeting
Moontown Cafe

When I had no hands
I carried our son
between my teeth,
bathed him with my elbows,
dressed him
by sheer will and
brushed his hair
with my twisted toes.

When the forest was blackest
I saw souls
suddenly among the trees saying,
go this way,
go this way. 

Even in dark moons
I had milky breasts to feed him and
when it rained
I carved a cave in the rock with my tongue 
and we hunkered down.

Third Place
by Ash Bowen
The Writer's Block

I didn't think of you today.
I carried a basket of apples
to the kitchen, peeled their skin 
to the length of my arm.

The water boiled, and I dropped
the apples in, watched them detach
themselves from their cores.
The water turned as white as winter.

All across the orchard apples lie 
like the roundness of beetles. 
Each night the fox comes 
for me. He waits at the gate-

folded road. He knows the light 
sauce I'll pour on my apples. 
He knows the way he'll eat 
my apple heart.

Honorable Mention
pejorative requiem in medias res
by Nicky Testavu
About Poetry Forum

& you and i and you
would not, now, not
& i and you and i
would not, now, not,
in autumnâs hushed whisper, when
then becomes now, and now, in stark stillness,
i scan a sameish field,
grown fallow and rutted, as
i watch the dead appear,
moving slow like mist, that
takes familiar form
as i

slide slow across the space where
smooth lips once parted without effort
to breathe concept into form;
to fill spaces in
between breaths, when

you would release me at midnight with the nudge
of a single finger tip
you would release me at midnight in the guise
of a little white bird

you would leave me to flit amongst the bodies
of the fallen soldiers

you would beckon me to lift the eyelids
of the mouldering dead

i would, in feckless freedom,
winnow through the fertile clay beneath the humid earth
of one womanâs living history
all the time my back turned brazenly
to the moon

the secrets of the dead
would refine my silhouette
define my outmost
boundaries as white on black
and afterwards I would return at dawn
with secret maps of you

you told me that nothing i said
nothing you said you said nothing
would ever come between us
between us but between us
is where i, not you, i, am rooted
and you, not i, you, have grown
brittle as husk discarded
by insect having shed its skin


find now
that my wings have been clipped and


from the nothing in between them
and you



am dust dull mist soft silt sliding over dry earth
no longer gently leavened by sweet breath
that you would now hold fast
behind closed lips and
in between smooth

and i, facing the moon,
the sun at my

April 2005
Judge Alex Lemon

First Place
Making Amends
by Liane Haslauer
Frgual Poet

If I sleep
    with your other you
 will you consider me 
 or yourself a victim 
    of life's inaccuracies?
 Then again 
    maybe it was just
 my other me
 I can consider myself 

Second Place
Sometimes I'm Afraid of Myself
by Sarah Sloat
Desert Moon Review

The zenith only reaches my eyebrow 
so can't hold my life inside it.
Crows tow a grim weight across the sky. 
It's all arranged by science, even the rain. 
Everything will go to hell, 
that's what it all comes down to. 
There won't be some merciful boat family 
to pull us aboard, or toss acacias to the churn. 
I know I've spent too long thinking 
how the wind lisps, traipsing in the trees. 
Lately the house is so still 
at the back of my mind 
I'm afraid of myself, here 
on the bottom of the sky.

Third Place
by T.E. Ballard
The Writer's Block

It was not death she feared 
but wings, startled and dense 
searching the September fields 

for corn. Every autumn 
she'd pull the car to the side 
for crows crossing the sky. 

Once, one landed 
on the hood of her car 
and a tree followed. 

An omen? When I told her 
in Jung's book of symbols 
birds represent self, 

the darker the color 
the more repressed the need, 
she laughed then sighed. 

It is all hunger, 
she said 
hunger and flight.

May 2005
Judge Aaron Welborn

First Place
by Jacob Jans
About Poetry Forum

when the shell cracks and yolk
fades into the blackened pan,
and flocks of paprika sizzle
in pools of oil popping,
when the melon moon dangles soft
across the silence of your home's external frame,
glance outside your window
for the final touch of taste --
stop to feel the steady shake
of all the quiet pressed
into the meals you make.

Second Place
Misreading A Dead Woman's Poem: Cling
by Laurel K. Dodge

Eventually I was placed on a bed like a boat.
--Julia Darling

Her body, the hull of a leaky boat,
her yellow arms, oars about to fall off,
the room, an egg-shaped ache and the sky full
of dirty windows. Guilt stalked, shadowy 
and caged as Rilke's panther--I didn't do enough,
I said too much, she rued. Time was teething;
time was toothed. Light was muted but still bright
through the transparent skin, veins apparent
as the twigs from the tree, scratching at the window.
Why won't somebody let it in? The fall had stopped 
at last, alas, and drops glittered like Egyptian beetles.
In the kitchen they were balking and mewling:
What to say to the dying woman. She tried to tell them: 
It's hard to let go but she couldn't be heard above the tea kettle's 
shrill whistle. The scent of crushed chives and the coos 
of mourning doves warned her through the Demerol.
She was not immune to omens. Her slippers felt abandoned, 
forlorn so far below. How long had it been since she'd stood 
on two legs? How long had it been since she'd felt the earth 
solid and whirling beneath her soles? Yesterday? 
When the door swung open like a jaw, she knew it was time
to go even though she didn't want to. It was like taking her lover
in her mouth, taking him down, down her throat.
Afterwards, still clinging to her stone hand,
he swore her last words were: The air is whinnying.
Last thought as she rode off on the broken-backed
stallion: The body, bastard that it is, can't be trusted.

Third Place
by Judy Goodwin
South Carolina Writer's Workshop

The tide will wash up as far as the green rock 
and then it won't, the sea birds will drop 
their shells, the man on the yacht 
will throw back his head and laugh 
and though there are pictures of him 
in all the albums, he won't know you 
tomorrow when he picks up your little girl, 
he'll drive away without a word, three years 
it's been and he won't say a word 
but he will roll down the window 
so she can wave goodbye 
tossing love from her small white hand 
like sea spray.

Honorable Mention
by Al Ferber
Frugal Poet

I did not go into this undertaking
without trepidations, I knew that 
traveling an underground river
would have its unnerving moments
its unexpected twists and turns:
the skulls of lost souls, the souls
of lost skulls, the skulls of lost
bodies, the disembodied spirits
of the damned - moonless nights,
sunless days, trees with colorless
leaves and swarms of low-flying bats,
red-eyed rodents, slithering snakes,
creeping insects of every size and
description but your luminescence 
took me completely by surprise.

June 2005
Judge Aaron Welborn

First Place
by Yolanda Calderon-Horn
The Writer's Block

He gave me to drink from his dented tin can. 
It was surprisingly cool: not bad for tap water. 
The living/kitchen area was vastly infertile- 
with two lawn chairs posing as rainy-day furniture 
and a gooseneck sink next to a circa 50's icebox. 
The place was clean. 

One ill fitted window on a wall 
faced a faded-yellow sheet that dangled 
in place of a bedroom door. 
He grabbed a towel, rinsed it; 
with his hand quietly on my elbow, 
he led me through the managing curtain. 
My trembling stopped. 

A twin bed, stack of law books and 
nightstand huddled in the center of the room. 
There was lunch neatly tucked in a napkin on the table 
along with the leather box monogrammed T.J. 
That's where he kept the old letters. 
I dared to ask how he came to save them 
when everything else was lost. 

I must have appeared as an apparition 
that traveled from the past and arrived 
in pulled smoke- whose accident outside 
the front yard disturbed a valley silence. 
He wiped drying blood from my forehead, 
asked if I was hungry. Before I answered, 
he tore the cheese sandwich in half.

Second Place
Last Minute Chore
by Jim Fowler
The Versifier

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

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

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

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

Third Place
Old Silverware on Parade
by John Eivaz
The Versifier

The wishbone snapped, marginally amended
to two bits in a hand full of snaps, fingers scratch
and bleed to songs of blood
on the winsome organ. Magdalene, please.
Would you like dessert,
perhaps pie, my reclusive waiter queried
in a sudden tone of terror, want of
further words. You know me, my mainstay:
how horrible it is to admit hunger.
The world, yes it's flat
beyond the horizon of the beloved
sunset, grey ends of the
manic skydrop hug a warty moon.
These few last beans trouble me,
call to all I've eaten.
I've lost my appetite now,
could you find it for me please,
crossing against an indeterminate light
in a meringue shroud. Pass on by,
bon appetit. Heartburn and all
that jazz, is the head
free yet?

Honorable Mention
On Finding Trilliums
by Kathy Paupore
Wild Poetry Forum

She walks the woods along the road,
the air is cold, rain comes and goes.
There at the base of the pine, a glimpse.

The wait has been short or long, depends
on your perception of time and its demands.
That tease of white could be a scrap

of birch bark, discarded paper, a patch
of snow.  Other ephemerals have come
and gone, most too quickly, unless

you watch for their bloom.  Maybe these two
were here yesterday, but she walked
this same path, saw no signs.  Perhaps the leaves

were close on the ground, tiny buds still green.
Today they must be taller, three leaves
open, white petals curved back to drink rain.

July 2005
Judge Aaron Welborn

First Place
The Mandolin
by Laurie Byro
Melic Review

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

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

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

Second Place
A Meaningless Poem
by Sabyasachi Nag
The Writer's Block

In Graz four newborns are found cold 
in a freezer. Frozen in a bucket. 
Blue-black under rose-garden-debris. 
No one is shocked. 

They hold out fists, point 
fingers, shake heads at her. 
Each time she birthed she despaired. 
Birthed. Despaired. Each time. 

Even the man whose wrists are red from her cinch 
can't remember any pregnancies. They will run 
tests, tie threads. Meanwhile 
the tenant who opened the freezer walks 

three miles before he finds the ice cream 
and relishing the taste of fresh peach in 
crushed pecan notes in his diary -- June 3. 
'Blood hides in every apple, a moon in every blister'.

Third Place
by Judy Goodwin
South Carolina Writer's Workshop

It was my father
who cut up her credit cards, 
stuffed them into the black plastic 
sacks along with her lipstick 
and Regal handbag, 
hefted it all out into the carport 
bins. On Sunday 
I emptied her dresser drawers. 
We were both guilty, startled 
by small sounds. One night 
I dreamt she returned, 
raging through the house. 
"What have you done!?" What 
had we done? There was no going back now. 
No reaching into the city dump to yank 
out the trash. Her things 
were turning and kneading 
at the bottom of great vats, 
rain soaked and loud with machinery. 
We had watched the loaf of her 
split, take in the rust 
and waste, roll like a seal in the bay - 
our muddy hands were cold 
for months.

August 2005
Judge Dave Brinks

First Place
Jack's Belly Button
by Jenni Russell
The Critical Poet

Jack has this belly-button "condition." A robin-egg blue lint grows 
inside it. When I attempt to remove the lint, he becomes aggressive, 
recoils defensively. He says the doctor cut his umbilical cord wrong
and there's a hole inside his belly-button exposing his organs to 
the air. He claims the lint is a byproduct of these organs' secretions. 
I never believed him. I always thought he saved the lint for his Mom, 
who used it to stuff her hand-made quilts. But tonight as he stood beside 
my chair, I looked inside his belly-button and saw a tiny heart beating. 
"Hold still!" I told him. The tiny heart flashed and rotated like a police 
light. Above it a pair of pink fuzzy handcuffs dangled from a lava 
lamp. I pressed my eye to Jack's belly-button and saw a room filled 
with confetti, plastic fruit in wooden bowls, dried sea sponges, trip wire, 
lobsters with rubber bands wrapped around their pinchers stacking
themselves like plates inside a dishwasher, and at a cluttered desk with 
old chewing gum stuck to its side, a gnome swiveled in a leather chair 
smacking gum, blowing it, and popping huge robin-egg blue bubbles.

Second Place
by Christine Kiefer
Salty Dreams

Woody interior rotting
Eases the removal of flaxen fiber.
This rotting the aroma of a rat's death behind the cupboard.
Women beating the ornery fannies of flax stalks.
Each child to far corners, wood versus fiber,
Further separation, no harmony in the roughing.
How fine are you?
Stay with your own kind.
Parallel hackles, rough goes first
Ladies last, age before beauty
They are easy when wet.
An orgy of women required
To keep this weaver weaving.
Spin, dress with sticky ooze.
Thicken, strengthen before the toxin.
Bleach now, sun in days gone by.
Virgin white before more pummeling
To close every hole.
Across the pond she longs for sun.
The castle madam prefers sun in Stirling.
In capris, craves crisp clean air.
In pedal pushers, ponders purity.
Shops for vests with lungs,
Trousers with bronchi
Fears Chlorox 
And its suffocating ways.
A startling oxymoron
Her poisoned pants
Once pummeled and putrid
To her like women's lips 
On her cycling, climbing calves.

Third Place
by Lisa Prince
The Blueline

I have a little serrated spoon 
hidden away in my utensil drawer 
you have to pick a ripe one 
I remember in high school 
home economics classes 
where they taught us to press 
our thumbs into the ends 
of fruit to test for ripeness 
every boy I've dated 
has wanted to squeeze my breasts 
sometimes when I shower 
I touch them myself 
trying to understand 
their globular form 
for breakfast 
mine would be nice 
you cut them in half 
with a serrated knife - not 
the kind with a straight edge 
so that you don't bruise 
them - ironically biting leaves marks 
there was a boy who 
so taken aback the morning after 
when he saw the marks he'd left 
he couldn't believe they'd come 
from his mouth 
I wanted to ask for more 
sometimes I'll have 
both halves of the grapefruit 
even though home economics 
would say half per person 
neatly cut along each segment 
so that each piece comes 
out by itself 
my mother had a mamogram 
when she was fifty five 
they found a lump the size 
of a grape - there's a fruit 
I don't like even if radiation 
and raisin are very alike 
she only has one breast now 
I see her touching herself 
sometimes when she thinks 
that she's alone or when 
she passes the hall mirror 
with only one breast she walks 
lopsided - my brother gave her 
an orange for her birthday 
for the other side, he said 
so I eat both halves 
with that small serrated spoon 
maybe I'll buy one 
for my mother

Honorable Mention
For Coyote, A Reflection
by Myra South
Café Utne

So as the honey maker stops
atop the bloom
for just a moment

milking each drop of prism color
into the nectar she will brew,

so do we all alight

for a sweet span
between clouds
to create
what honey we can
hanging onto
our fuzzy lives

in hopes of feeding those
that come after us -
the buzzing

We are such
fleeting thieves

in search of one more
petaled jewel
to carry home

sun light gems -

we adorn crowns
with flower candy
for the mothers

dancing home again
humming between blooms.

September 2005
Judge Sarah Crown

First Place
The Chewer
by Judy Goodwin
South Carolina Writer's Workshop

"You deliberately eat that
to bother me." Suddenly cruel 
I sit accused,
one apple half gone in my hand,
one poisonous piece
a slug against my teeth.
In the kitchen glass
I can see myself perched
gargoyl-like, I don't recognize the shadow
of my hunch. I take the next bite
quietly, use my tongue to press
each macintosh cell to mush,
suck and roll 
and push it down 
my throat half closed, unwilling.
Stubborn tube. I give up,
set the fruit on a plate.
Let the fruit flies have it
I say. Let the fruit flies
take silent bites, land and lift
and land. Let the plate 
be a silent tongue.

Second Place
by Catherine Rogers

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

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

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

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

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

Third Place
Two Days with my Father
by Ashura

Remembrance is an empty home 
imbued with silent echoes that tense 
limbs and fill the head with 
the sweet salt of rhapsody 
The resultant glue of heat on candy 
and July days that swam in eternity, 
trees, glorious Oaks that swelled 
into storybook blue, and hugged, 
and drenched all sentient life in awe, 
and you, the silhouette whose 

calloused hands brushed 
away flies and fears, and the tragedy 
of adoption - I remember; 
I remember the gritty chatter of steel 
on crusted earth, the rows and miles 
of glistening green, reaching up and 
out to you and I, the cobbled hands 
who etched our spirits into a soil 
scarred with hoe and boot and sun - 
Of all the hours we shared in silence 

and self-containment, this fertile feast, 
this acre, this day of skylark notes 
and rippled breath stretched far beyond 
the tea and storms, latched doors, 
nightjars and nettle stings 
that fall into childhood's muddled rhyme - 

How stark the days of famine and repose 
that bled you to spectre gray, took away 
your brawny breeze and plunged you 
chest-deep in the muzzle of mortality; 
In the hollow of your silenced heart 
there were no flowers, but the drear scorn 
of squall on vanquished tumult

Honorable Mention
by Cass Vibbert
Pen Shells

My mother, when she spoke
of Tidesworth, and how all of England
stopped for tea at 4:00,
allowed  the sun to cradle her eyes,
and returned to Westminster,
Munich's summer gardens,
and Regensberg in early May.
A nurse's cap lined tissue near
old cotton-wool and cutlery,
as soldiers reappeared with sunken eyes,
and lungs filled to capacity.
Anonymous wounds, both British
and American, reopened.
My mother, living inside a white house,
grew gladiolus and eggplant,
braided tulip stems and pressed
them between her palms,
hung wash in triangular fashion. 
She waited for afternoon to smooth
into right angles and the ring doves
to come full circle, reached
for bone china cups with gold skirts -
dotted her knuckles with Jergen's lotion,
and napped on the veranda.

Honorable Mention
Buying Flowers
by J. Rod Pannek

Today I watched you pick Azaleas 
from the nursery to be planted beneath 
our picture window even though, 
five years ago I thought of killing us both, 
and then you saw the snap dragons, 
but it is too late in the year
for snap dragons.

I selected the petunias with plenty of buds 
and few blossoms to fill the space by our front 
porch. Looking at each plant for a sign of vigor, 
just as I had once examined my own body 
to look for the signs of decay.  
I like the potential of totally green petunias, 
walking past them in the morning to pick up my paper, 
day by day, I can see them pop, one by, sometimes, one.

The green and rusted cart is loaded down with colors
ready to be transplanted into our nuclear family 
and home where once I took five showers a day
and spent hours making myself vomit
trying to ease the tightness in my belly.  
Our yard and life are lived in and comfortable.

A soccer mom smiles at me as I taste the rosemary
from a table filled with living herbs and I think of potting
enough to keep our kitchen smelling used or maybe 
just so much as it takes to cover up the odor of our 
most unflattering fight when we told the kids about my 
ugly side and you said you wanted my head to explode.
But soccer moms don't get to know you well enough
to make educated decisions, so they smile at everyone.

Begonias need a new name but you bought some 
for the treasure chest on the back porch where "full sun"
is an understatement regardless of what your name is.
I have known for years that when I died, on the front page,
the second paragraph would have to say "history of mental illness"
somewhere, keeping me from concentrating on the sweat that
falls onto your lips and is wiped away by my favorite tongue.

Unloading the car, I remembered I needed to turn the compost before it
got too hot and burned out the nutrients that I work so hard to save
and recycle into our yard filled with flowers and where I began to notice
four years ago this spring that I could be a father and a husband and like 
my gardens, I needed care and you with your cotton-pink gloves covered 
with soil could look up from digging out the daffodil bed to move the hair 
sticking to your face in spring while the clouds moved in and out of our life.

Honorable Mention
A Young Woman's Introduction to Color and Death
by Allen Weber
Frugal Poet

In the old-folk's home I changed
bed sheets for this white lady.
She was real old, but she liked me
anyway. She'd tell bout the days 
she was young and the things she'd done.
Said she wrote for a paper back 
when most reporters were men. 
When she was ready to sleep,
she'd reach up to hold my face
her hands would always shake
she'd pull me down to kiss my cheek.  

One night she said to me something
like You know what little girl?  I'm going 
to die this week.  Well, I didn't know
what to say, felt like a fool standing there 
smiling at her, too young to imagine
anyone could plan for  such a thing. 

               Can't usually tell with black people
               till their breath comes fast and shallow.
               But old white folks turn blue before
               they die, like their tired blood stops
               flowing along with their will 
               to be the last of their kind. 
               It starts at their toes
               got about two weeks to live 
               with blue toes.  As the color flows
               up their feet they've got a week,
               maybe less.  When it's to their knees
               that's the day they'll pass away. 

Next day when I got to her room she was
lying down--I'd never seen her do that
in daylight.  She hadn't even pulled the covers
back.  Then I guess she didn't see the need
to muss up the bed.  She was all dressed up
except that she wasn't wearing shoes.
She didn't speak.  That was different, 
she always spoke before.  This time 
she just smiled as I came close 
enough to see that her feet were blue.

October 2005
Judge Frank Wilson

First Place
little love tattoos
by Ray Sweatman
Salty Dreams

when we dreamed the same dream at the exact same time
the face of Big Ben cracked and smiled stuffed cuckoos
came unstuck exploded & flew the plank all over Harold Lloyd's latest prank,
broken only by the fall of all the walls from China to Jerusalem, feathers everywhere, made real
by our authentic preconscious sounds as real as red apples coming down,
made to flee because of their redness, dropping from the perfect sky where you & I
nibble at the common dream of skin shared, peeling away the illusions
that we are somehow separate, building little love tattoos to mark the light
and air and all things above the laws of gravity, (for when the world returns
& oh how it always does, heavy & absurd but never quite absurd enough
to remind us that we are) yours a dancing marionette, mine a string of violet,
yours a Popeyed sailor man, mine a church key of oceanic proportions, opening
waves & waves gathering 'round the mouth, spitting out the seeds don't doubt
but the dream it is as fluid as the bed wherein we lie as changeling as
the changeling sky growing growing grow! spinning whoa whoa whoa
I thought I heard Tom Jones what's new pussycat whoa whoa whoa
and you say Land Ho!

heal me cure me heal me of this feverish love spinning up and off the curb
and I say as head turns and flies your now crotchless panties in my eyes:
but darling...we've both had the cure and it's marriage.

Oh love, can't we be content with this transitory madness come here & stand
on these pheromoneal airs with the wind & clouds & all these angel feathers
swirling 'round: let Harold hang from the weight of ceremonial responsibility
let the staircase burn don't try to save me take what's left of this skyscraper
let the stars prance & melt in your microwave as a bum to a harlot turns
your cheeks the sweetest scarlet I love it when you wear my curtains!

kiss me, bite me, make your silly marks, make that chimney sweep
work in the morning.

Second Place
by Trace Estes
Rabbit Hole

This morning, the sky 
is Julius Caesar dressed in a policeman's uniform 
after his encounter with friend Brutus 
and the rest on the Senate floor. 
The maroon seepage from unnumbered 
slashes and cuts purples the areas around them, 
then finally cows the blue cloth with a smeared palette. 

In a defiant gasp, it dawns- 
he should've heeded the blind soothsayer's advice, 
especially after noting the mayhem spread across 

the sky this morning. 

Third Place
Doing Time
by Arlene Ang

We have four hours.  
He has been up since six.  
He is reading a novel by Steinbeck.  
He never keeps track of the titles.  
He says they remind him  
of unpaid bills, the jobs  
that changed from state to state.  
I am allowed two keys,  
my driver's license, cigarettes,  
loose paper money in a transparent bag,  
ten snapshots of the duck pond  
at different angles because  
he wants something  
innocuous from his past.  
He mentions he is  
eating well. He is trying to recall  
his dreams for an inmate who once  
practiced medicine illegally  
in another country. I hum  
a tune about dancing alone.  
I promise to be back.  
Here is the future  
on the wall: Only one hug  
when you first meet and one more  
when it is time to leave.  
His sentences always end with  
I'm sorry. I hold his hand  
where everyone can see it.

November 2005
Judge Ravi Shankar

First Place
Sì, Artemisia
by Rebecca Palapala

Sì, Artemisia,
nessuno muore dalla tristezza.

If we are very careful, we can make sadness
last all day--push eggshell fragments
against yolks with clumsy fingers,
move slowly through the metered rain
paced and gentle until well past noon.

Sip your tea and poison slowly
in a cool kitchen-tiled floors, bare feet.
Drag soft hair across lips,
turn down the radio to a dolorous hum.

The sun comes to us, doesn't it?

If we do not move, and only if--

If we pick up our pens, we mustn't 
say a thing, but rest the ink there, 
let it seep into paper pulp ravines.
Tomorrow, maybe, it will be 
a poem. 

Sì, Artemisia, perché siamo ancora vivi.

If we sleep very softly, not turning, 
draw the curtains against the threat 
of a sunny morning hopefully--
he will be there still at first 
particulate light-purring.

Second Place
4 Sevenlings
by Yolanda Calderon-Horn
The Versifier

Sevenling 1 

His song persuades applesauce 
to scream, a boiling broth to quiet, 
and urges foes to befriend. 

I am a recorder for his librettos, 
a cathedral for his plea, 
and a married woman, for heaven's sake. 

I hope he likes red beans and rice. 

Sevenling 2 

I carry an umbrella, a lone key 
and a mug crowned by coffee fog 
as I dash through a deluge. 

My entry is quick like crash-sex. 
The radio, defroster and wipers coo. 
And steam Londons over my eyes. 

My message needs a cell phone. 

Sevenling 3 

You go away on big business, 
grizzly bear sleep, 
and your senate in the tool shed. 

But you don't come away 
to my occupation, loopy dreams 
or under my dress. 

In what route did we lose the plums? 

Sevenling 4 

We went mad over lemon rice, 
gully cricket and Nandi Hill - 
were roused to form our ethnicity, 

drink from the other as if we were water. 
The air rumbled with masala, 
rosin, and nightly monsoons. 

Bangalorian Nag Champa is now a snake of ashes.

Third Place
Before the Storm
by Catherine Rogers

For here we have no lasting city. . . .
(Hebrews 13:14)

We should have learned to hold life lightly here
where captains' homes are crowned
with widow's walks. Whalers were gone
two years and more: so long to wait for news.
At the river's mouth, a bronze girl stands
forever, waving.

The northern coastline bares its teeth;
the southern shoals extend smooth arms
to welcome cyclones. We glance up 
at the march of thunderheads.
Here nothing lives beyond the reach
of water and wind.

Was it easier before we rode the clouds
and dropped our ticking instruments 
to calibrate the storm?
Easier to drown surprised in the house, 
awash with memorabilia?

Is it better to take our solitary way
as we do now, stitched in our skins, 
empty-handed, knowing
what we know?

Honorable Mention
By the Beach
by George Brew
The Critical Poet

In Folkestone by the beach, two old 
hydraulic lift cars with a long reach 

and the rooms built into cliffs 
and roads that zig-zagged left 
to right turned stitched and switched, 
and something called Old High Street with 
a cobbled humpback and two flat 
drains each side looking neat as well as beat, 
And by the sea-front mollusced in the corner, 
dumped shells from the fish stall rolled within 
the tide stroke pull and pinch, the tide rolls 
take an inch, and as we left the contest band-hall, 
sun smote on the wave fall, 
dappled, looked a bit like ships or maybe France, 
and glittered on the instruments 
and glistened redly in 
the sky like bandsmen's bruised lips, 
or a dismal sigh; a sad eye; 
lost whist for things long missed; 
sea kist; or a blue sky; blue sky.

December 2005
Judge Ravi Shankar

First Place
Gregorian Sestina
by Esther Greenleaf Murer

Wearing a rented tuxedo
one night in Monterey,
I'm sitting with my friend Jimmy
on a state-of-the-art sofa
stirring a cup of miso
with what looks like a platinum spatula.
Jimmy's girlfriend Ella
lives in this fancy condo
with a loft she calls an "entresol"
oh my deah it's tres tres
chic, you'd have to look very fah
for anything like this, mon ami.
The wallpaper is ramie.
I guess the place is Shangri-la
to her, but I could think of half a
million better uses for all that dough.
But well, bully for her, hooray.
Not my idea of soul.
Well, I sit there and console
myself thinking of my old army
days, especially my buddy Ray
and a goodtime girl named Stella
we picked up in Laredo
one night--she sure was a laugh a
minute, got to swinging off a
chandelier and landed on the console
of the Hammond organ, waving a dildo
in time with--none of your smarmy
dinner music, but a tarantella.
Then we made a foray
outside, offering stray
passersby a puff of a
joint, hoping they'd (Insh'Allah)
sing: even with a voice only so-so
one can manage a chorus of "Mammy"
or caterwaul a glissando.
I'll take doughty graty voices
singing meaty fatty salty tunes
any day over Ella's tra-la-latte.

Second Place
by Sarah Sloat
Desert Moon Review

The airport wants my shoes.

At last I see the trapdoor in the soles

toggling down the x-ray ramp.

My shapes have never shone like this.

My whole life lights up in vials and doses.

When I fly, I fly entire and abandoning.

The animal lies down with the mineral *

a leather belt curls around my mints and keys.

At the threshhold, a man draws his detector

down my spine, that hinge, the leash

that grounds me. 

His convex glass magnifies my need, though

he gets too close to see the blue fuse inside.

He'll never leave the earth, never

see the seams of an overloaded suitcase

rip with wishes, rent as a lost continent.

Third Place
After "Storms" by Philip Levine
by John Vick
Inside the Writer's Studio

At a still damp picnic table,
after the letter arrived and
anger eloped with the sense of
justice that came on me like a high
wind of relief and left me pensive,
after those went by, I daydreamed
and he sat next to me, in haute
couture and size 8 embroidered Turkish
slippers.  I knew he was an apparition
of my conscience.  He said he
understood me.  My avoidance of
the horrible truth of his illness.
We were in a park near a cemetery
established some decades ago, with
huge oaks and elms heavily dotting
the slopes of monuments; death markers.
I had never been there before.  For years
I'd wanted to speak to him; give him
a call on a lonely Friday night.  His silver-
blues stared into my browns and I thought
of our heavy coupling years back.
It, of course, had begun to rain, so I
walked as he slipped away into
transparency.  I walked among the
college's libraries, the city parks,
the outdoor malls, through the farmers'
market, not seeing him again.  When
bars began asking cover charges
and the streets filled with hooligans,
I walked to Uptown and home, meditative,
plume I was oddly relieved.  And above,
the sky purple-black, was not filled with
stars, the city lights restrictive, but a couple
of planets showed through.
From what was visible of the Milky Way
I'd swear I saw the slippers dancing.

Honorable Mention
Exit Wounds As an Element of String Theory in Autumn
by Joseph Armstead
SplashHall Poetry

Time, a function of old photographs  
and forgotten birthday cards,  
with the remembered image  
of each fallen tear.  
...the wind outside the window rustles leaves from off the trees...  
If you listen long enough you can hear  
charged particles exceeding  
the speed of heartbreak.  
Intersecting Planes on a  
four dimensional model  
of intersecting, deconstructed globes,  
the light -- don't blink, darkness descends --  
rapidly swirls,  
into an inverted helix  
there are no notes to this music  
(And so we sat in silence together,  
drowning in rising waves of  
crashing against a rock-strewn shore  
of abandoned promises and broken hopes --  
it feels a lot like Sunday morning...)  
Each non-integrated mote of particulate matter  
rests on that razor's edge between  
total dissolution  
tyrannical mutation  
when exposed to continuous streams  
of amplified twilight energy focused  
through the aperture of an obsidian lens  
there is no brilliance to this light  
Time, a Fifth Dimensionality integer  
of the Mandelbrot subset,  
shreds and rips, bleeding  
onto the cold, tear-spattered floor  
as the Heart ticks away  
the passing of Valentine dreams.  
...the wind outside the window rustles leaves from off the trees...

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