Top 10 Poems from 2014 WD Poetry Awards

Below are the top 10 poems from the 2014 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards. Congratulations to all the winners!

1. What Goes Around, by Beverley Rose Enright

to Weldon Kees

Willie Pickins jazzes “Jesus Loves Me”
on his piano. A five-year-old is shot
by street gang crossfire in Chicago.
Angelina Jolie has had her breasts removed.
Bosch’s “The Temptation of St. Anthony”
hangs slightly slanted. My dove’s white empty cage
is clean. The ware in Syria fills the T-V screen.
Pickins jazzes “Jesus Loves Me”.

Bosch’s “Temptation of St. Anthony” has bawdy
imps cavorting in the lower left hand corner.
Angelina Jolie has had her breasts removed.
A five-year-old is shot walking home from school
by street gangs. Mr. Dovebar’s empty cage is white
and clean. He flew up from my hand high in a tree.
I scream as I slice my finger cutting onions.
The war in Syria fills the T-V screen.

Street gang warfare in Chicago kills
a five-year-old. Bosch’s “Temptation of St. Anthony”
has bawdy imps. Mr. Dovebar did not fly back to me.
I scream as I slice my finger cutting onions.
Angelina Jolie has had her breasts removed.
The T-V screen is full of war. The empty cage
in the corner by the white piano is clean.
Willie Pickins jazzes “Jesus Loves Me”.

2. My Love, You Sing Like a Sea Lion, by Jayson Clury Lynn

that could never belt
an F, without pounding

paradiddles on my tympanic
membrane. Brisk tick-tickings

on the rims of that Slingerland snare.
Liquored-up polyrhythms wheezing

out your throat like a dolphin
in heat. Second-hand

smoke, you drown my soul
with your laryngitis blues.

Staccato half-steps pluck-plucking
my veins, like a beginner wailing

on a beat-up Telecaster
that’s my water-breathing star.

Fish me out by scat-scatting
with surgical precision, an operation

You’re my local anesthetic,
a topical remedy, my bottle-

nosed siren. Keep vamping,
as if you swim in the blues.

3. I have fallen asleep again reading Homer, by Jeffrey Owen Pearson

only to lie awake once in bed
eyes wide as the missing moon

much like the boy who waits for meteors
to shower from a rising constellation

or maybe for his father
coming over the hill from war

that is the way life is in these late hours
turning graves over
grabbing at an empty palm

when did the olive branches
outside the window
lose all their leaves

when did they lose
all their fruit

4. The Beating Heart, Minus Gravity, by Marla Alupoaicei

You can’t blame gravity
for falling in love. —Albert Einstein

Gravity, are you a force or just geometry?
Reel me, drag me back on course
with your penchant for the particle,
your love of the particulate,
lure me like a gypsy moth fastened to the flame
Beckon me again to you, tender & articulate
with a Leider cycle sung in the key of my name.

Pull me down & wrap me in the drapery
of space-time, your holiness & scars.
Compose for me a symphony
that’s scripted in the stars.
My axis of hope, this exigent are
keeps spiraling me back toward you:
the prodigal hobbles home in the dark.

Close as my shadow, you kneel at my heels,
ten thousand light points caressing my face.
You’ll be here suspended, waiting for me,
long after I stop believing in you
upheld by the lover,
the body of the beloved,
& the distance between the two.

5. Sleep Deprived En Route to Sioux City: or, Sweet Dreams Tony Wright, by T.S. Baxter

I blame the dybbuk from Dubuque:
grave robber loose in my rejectamenta cave systems,
where forgetfulness regrets
the ghosts of the night before.
Dislocated Leah,
lithe nymph with sinkhole cheekbones,
wanders across my windshield blurred
by headlights & July’s rain, then
dissipating like silt in a disappearing river.

Adrift in the Driftless Area
I see unfocused flashes in the blind valleys:
us wasting Wednesday’s wasted, drinking
Thursday’s soup through straws,
& debating the significance of the cat’s Friday night winking.

Now these inside jokes are only with myself.

I trade marijuana for Adderall in Steamboat Rock
with a catfish-whiskered hipster named Drew.
Crackling & cackling with nihilist psychotic-stimulant-bison-madness volts,
I’m a bolt of phenethylamine electricity humming my Song of Somnolence
through live-wire teeth grinding, & coursing West toward Sioux City.

United Flight 232 dropped from the Mississippi Flyway
15 years ago like a 215-ton shrieking steel herring gull.
Catastrophic Engine Failure.
The spectral remembrance beside/inside me echoes Captain Hayes:

“Whatever you do, keep us away from the city.”

I ignore her, trying to outdrive her sparking presence,
to hear static: plaintext transmissions from the cryptographic grassland.

Near exit 1B the trooper’s knuckles like hailstones thump the passenger window,
& preface his question:

“Have you been drinking tonight…sir?”

I close my eyes & dream I’m
asleep in Everlasting, Nebraska.

6. Ides, by Richard King Perkins II

This is it
my father points expectantly at an unremarkable location.
This is it…he says again, his hands chopping with each syllable.
I guess I’m supposed to imagine my conception here a decade
and a half ago but I’m fourteen years old and it all just seems
a little gross and weird so I look to the spot he’s pointing at,
feigning reverence, hoping we can just be done with this…visit?
Encounter? Reminisce? I just want to go home and do the things
that really matter to me, not stand here staring at the foundation
of fatherly memories.

The Ides of March
seems like sort of the right day for any person to die. He’s been
gone more than a dozen years and now I can’t help but wonder
what I had going on that seemed so important that long-past day.
Maybe a girl or probably just hanging out with a couple of friends,
talking shit about music or TV or how much it was going to suck
to start out as a puny freshman in a few weeks. But that’s all just a guess.
What I recall for sure is my Dad’s expectant face, trying to teach me
something about beginnings and choices and whimsy and dedication
and how he still looked so healthy, his profile firm and confident
trying to tell me that before me, he had so very little to tell.

7. At Last, Goodbye, by Angela De Grot

From my place beneath the willow tree,
I see the sad slow conga line.
Men and women draped in black,
accessorized with misery,
except for Aunt Sally—as usual
in her ridiculous red hat.
The minister, by request,
pristine in white.

Clearing his throat, the minister’s words
become the music.
Children, husband and friends
waltz around me.
One, two, three. Come together.
One, two, three. Hug and part.
To and fro,
swirl and go.
Curtsey down,
dirt in hand,
one, two, three, let it go.
His turn, her turn, respects are paid.

Uninvited, the November rain joins the dance.
Plop drops onto my mahogany coffin top.
Tip tip tap,
in a whirl, umbrellas unsnap.
The minister’s words tumble faster
until at last, Amen.
The procession leaves,
no one lingers.
I’m alone, happy at last,
On the wet grass.

8. Indifference, by Jo Spiller

There was a blue moon on New Year’s Eve,
She lit up the sky with a silver grace,
And cast aspersions all over the places
Mortals won’t see. No one will know.

I stepped out of the car at a quarter till twelve
And I faced her, nose to nose. I said something
I now can’t recall, but she got the gist, she was
Hung on the wall of the new old sky;

And she didn’t say nothing
That Mama was passing.

I don’t know where they got the expression
‘Blue moon,’ she didn’t look blue to me.
But then quick as hey presto I caught her blue,
And blaming the tips of the clouds for her hue,
She was arrogant, awesome, silent and bold,

And she couldn’t care nothing
That mama was passing.

At dawn she made magic of ocean and air,
The lace of her leaving was strewn everywhere,
And it wasn’t until the sun lulled her to sleep
That I wondered. And missed her,

And Mama was passing.

9. Weight of the World, by Laurie Holding

You snore on the couch with your eyes open wide.
Once in a while, after rabbit dreams, you turn
To reposition, get your bearings on a new, cool, side
And groan. It’s a groan of pain, of burden. I’ve learned
To touch your head and not to agree
With your heavy heart, your worries, your plight
That life has offered up. You gaze into me
Before closing rheumy eyes again. The fight
Is all in your furry mind, Baby.

But maybe no. Do you wonder where they’ve gone?
Children of your left behind backyard play,
Driveway waves and disappearing taillights. You yawn,
Not of boredom but of disrupt, upset, days
Splayed out now before you with no sprinkler or balls
Or school bus brakes screeching in the street.
Tail wagging madly as they disembark with bags
And papers and promises of racing hearts and child sweat

When it smells good, like bird, some of them come
Again, finally, and stroke you, hug and hold.
For a moment or three you know they’ll stay home,
But no. The driveway says it all, you fold
Back with a sigh and watch the road, your enemy
That launches them again, as far as we can see.
Do they play with better friends than me?
Do they remember the red bow and the tree?
The snow play and the running free?

Or was it all just another rabbit dream?

10. Bar Stool Agony, by Bobbye DePaul

This seeping, weeping open wound on your barstool wants a margarita rocks salt and the desert menu oh please.

I will mop it, sop it up later when I have caught a breath, please jump start my heart back up, thank you for the cocktail napkin so small and orderly with this blood gushing out of me and pooling onto your floor.

My night has gone well, hell, what with the agony and honesty all crashing together in between bites of your magnificent filet, a bitter taste about it this time, like something has gone sour, gone bad, rotted and decayed.

Did you see him as he left, bereft and still and sad and cold and hot and angry, gray and black, our decades trailing behind him, slipping in the mess, his footing unsure? That was him all right.

Another would be nice, that’s twice I’ve said it rocks and salt and balls and chains and love and hate and life and murder of the soul I’ll have the tab.

Two’s my limit here but fear has kept it indistinct in other words and matters dear I can’t make out the line I’m fine to drive but not to steer you right or wrong or clear.

Keep the change, a lot I know, I tend to blow a wad he’s said and spend to much it’s time I’ve gone through like no tomorrow and there might not be, you see, for us but you’ll be fine with all these bottles.

Thank you for the drink and think about it save yourself the trouble of this day in hell by loving, loving well, and I’ll be back another time to stain your bar with blood and wine and tears that etch themselves into your glass.

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