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Winning Poems for January 2008
Judge Fleda Brown

The Bottle Tree
by Allen M. Weber Desert Moon Review I was so proud, Mama, to get that robe, to help fashion a cross with Hale County's finest men. They let me have two swigs of shine and load up Papa's shotgun. That boy was kneeling on the hard-swept floor below a char-drawn likeness of Jesus. In a rightful fury, his ma'am fought like three big men; her sorrow bit like a sour bile into the roof of my mouth. We dragged him to their bottle tree, and Mama, those bottles made a sucking sound and poured out colored moonlight at our feet. We staggered about grinning like fear as someone shot the barking dog, cackled when another tore down the damp unmentionables that fluttered on a single taut line. As the rope was drawn around a limb, too near a hollowed gourd with purple martin eggs, I raised my hood to throw up supper on my boots, then helped to paint a home with kerosene and fire. Since then my children raised up children, who play with brown-skinned ones; and those who'd force it otherwise are mostly hair and bones. But southernmost branches caught the flames that night; their splintered wounds still bleed. The heat-shocked glass still takes my breath, to howl for reckoning. So the animals keep wary: deer won't rut, dogs won't lift to pee; and until I too go on to Hell, the martins may never come again. Goose Step by Lois P. Jones Pen Shells The Goose-Step . . . is one of the most horrible sights in the world, far more terrifying than a dive-bomber. --George Orwell He loves to goose-step in her parking lot, fluorescent light casting the stage for Dachau. He grins in his brown skinned suit, marvels at the way the Germans treat him like a countryman. Loves the coarse consonants of their commands, the wild sex with the German girl he'd had on the road to Spain. He wanders through Jewish graveyards to feel the faded dates of the tombs. A pastime, in the way that stepping is his pleasure in the darkness. He loves the swastika, tells her about its ancient origins, the dotted quadrants of the Hindus, the Neolithic symbols 10,000 years before Christ. "A tradition" that dates to the 17th century, the Prussian army stepping on the faces of the enemy. She finds him aesthetic, like the tall leather boots of the Reichswehr. Tries to think about his love of flamenco, the dark hollows of his song unbedding a command. She knows to pass under him is the terror she needs. He knows to pass over her like another graveyard. She prays the neighbors are not looking. Begs him to stop but he smirks, lifts his legs higher and higher. A sign of unity like the men who stepped around Lenin's tomb. It says that man can withstand all orders for love, no matter how painful, how ludicrous. The Cardiologist Has a Word with Us by Yolanda Calderon-Horn The Town Cold fingers prowl my spine even though no one I know is touching me: nothing doctors can do. Not a thing. I brush fingers on one sister's elbow, greet my son's shoulder with mine. Another sister clings to mami's hand. My husband embraces me, lets go; embraces, lets go. I call the rest of my siblings in Chicago. I just say it. I leave the hospital knowing little about what comes next and too much of what came before. Days after, I'm a Radio Flyer covered in snow. The body and mind lug its brood. When I walk by young gals at the office, endlessly pigging up their darling lives, or the elderly neighbor shifting dust to the street, I want to grab normalcy by the collar, ask: why did you dump us? I think of mami who has the right or should raise her voice to suit, and wonder if the phantom of the opera will have untrained notes trapped in my stomach. I go to bed trying to sort fear from anger, resignation from gratefulness, faith from hope. I awaken tangled with pipes of the smoke. I want to wish papi a feliz ano nuevo the moment I walk through his door- but the unpredictability of his failing heart gobbles happy out of terms. I stand by the fireplace hoping the ice-storm will melt. Minutes later, the hearth inhales moisture out of words: my tongue is heavy like cooled clay. Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey! by Guy Kettelhack Desert Moon Review Let it go? Vapid palliation! -- which at best can soothe one into thinking there's a truth quite simply to be had, if only we'd get calm enough. Stuff it: here is what I know today. I've got a cold I'm almost happy won't too quickly go away: I've just ingested chicken broth with matzoh balls -- Balducci's tasty anti-flu soup (lower east side wannabe) – and I've been on a spree of fantasizing lightly: watching Turner Classic Movies circa 1933: and it's as if a Cupid had alighted on my knee, to entertain me with this possibility: that someone full of glow whom I have just begun to know might turn into a Huck, or Jim -- I do so very much like him. It's quite a mix, this pile of pick-up sticks that one calls one's perceptions: full of chicken soup deceptions: but nothing's here for seeing that we haven't dreamed up into being: so allow me Jim, or Huck, and I will be the other shmuck, and it will half be daring, half be luck, if we, out on our raft, get into -- something -- ineluctable. Red Cap by Sarah J. Sloat Wild Poetry Forum Tarry, stray, and you fall into his lap: a pillory and bellylaugh -- for that is the plunge of strumpets. Down the hatch lie rooms strewn with wool, stockings and children's shoes, lined with moss and stumpage. No surprise to hear the village hiss, complicitous. Gossips consider it no mystery how girls go down, kindling appetite, when the wolf asks what you have under your apron, little mistress, and you reply -- wine and tarts, old beast, a ruse, a rosebud.

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