Top 10 Winning Poems from the 2015 WD Poetry Awards

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the winners poems from the 2015 WD Poetry Awards. For full coverage of the 2015 WD Poetry Awards, check out the July/August 2016 issue of Writer’s Digest. For a complete list of winners, click here.

In this bonus online exclusive, you can read the top-ten winning poems from this year’s competition.

1. “Inheritance” by Ruth Elizabeth Morris

When I was nine, I tried on my mother’s mastectomy bras.

I filled the pockets with Kleenex, posing in front of a mirrored door

to admire the curves I had created underneath my overalls.

 

In locker rooms my mother’s phantom-breast was all I saw:

Afraid to be seen, I held a towel to hide my “budding orbs”

while she dared other women to look, removing her mastectomy bra.

 

Once, while her bra was still warm, I reached my small

fingers into the hidden pocket and removed the breast-form;

I held it to my chest—bee-sting nubbins!—beneath my overalls

 

and imagined the woman I would be when my training bra

was full. Everywhere my future-self went—gym, grocery, hardware store—

she was walking alone, wearing her mother’s mastectomy bra.

 

When I graduated from college, I bought myself a push-up bra

and wore my sweater-stretchers like medals of honor,

thinking back to girlhood, playing bra-stuffed dress-up in my overalls.

 

Lately, I stare at my nipples while they are still mine. I draw

red lines where the incisions will be, not sure what I will ask for

in the operating room. I hold my mother’s mastectomy bras

and ask, whose breasts will I wear beneath my overalls?

 

2. “In Praise of Retiring in Pacific Standard Time” by Carolyn Martin

The country’s at it again: the Dow’s dipped two dozen points,

O’Hare digs out of snow, Vegas hoses off another night.

 

All that industry before my coffee’s ground and dripped,

before joggers pound the Waterfront and bikers grip their gears.

 

I’ve grown keen on laziness and lie awake to dream

about Chicago’s Mile and McCarren’s slot machines;

 

about conferencing with bankers, engineers,

and high tech CEOs from New York to Los Alamos.

 

I’m through with hotel rooms and nights alone; with minds

that wouldn’t heed, mistakes I had no answers for.

 

In eight zones west of Zero Longitude – where the sun

tints Mt. Hood and east winds wind through Douglas firs –

 

forty years of work whittle down to soothing words:

It is beautiful to do nothing and rest afterwards.

 

Let the doorman on Park West brush off his uniform

and Minneapolis scrape its iced windshields.

 

Let Denver planes re-calibrate their flights through

nagging thunderstorms. Let vendors unpack snapper

 

at Pike Place and freeways start their stalls.

Let today attempt to guilt me into work. I’ll answer

 

with a stroll around my yard, delete a weed or two.

Beautiful, the firs will say, admiring my industry.

 

3. “Hooked” by Judith Marks-White

While the husband fishes, he lapses into reverie,

Nostalgia floating up like flotsam

On a wave of years.

He recalls with detailed precision

The taste of bluefish,

His wife’s scent after cleaning it,

The way the worm glistens on the line:

A wiggling warrior fighting for freedom.

The rod, flung far back as adolescence

Thrusts forward into the sky,

Plunges into the ocean

Reeling in a slippery fish

Delivered cold to its silver pail coffin,

Tail still quivering.

The gift of bluefish is handed over to his sea-smelling wife.

Her apron crusted with scales from the summer’s catch.

The fish flaps then drowns under a flush of faucet spray.

The husband – a pungent mix of fish and sweat – loosens his wife’s barrette.

Hair, cascading down in a sea of curls

Washes over the blue and white-checkered cloth.

Love waits for no one,

Not even bluefish.

 

4. “PROTO MASS” by Elisabeth Avery

Hot and damp,

he smells of puppy.

 

His black-hole eyes can’t see

how mine have swum oceans for him.

His tiny hands too still to press back.

 

There is beauty there, and wonder.

Where is the sculptor whose hand carved this strange perfection,

as if he and life still had connection?

 

I’m left to ask:

How could anything so small weigh so much?

 

The gurney creaks, alerting the forehead-creased fans

that I’m the featured player in this motorcade

squealing by on the x-ray parade route.

Too weak to wave, I blink my eyes at my Halloween-faced family.

Are they going to the masquerade, too?

I’m playing Dracula.

Two pints will do the trick.

 

With death close, the mind runs to making extravagant deals

with God.

Mine grabs onto the dark-skinned man who has been swabbing

my private room,

intimately respecting the possibility of my demise.

He hears me stir and croons, “Precious Lord.”

I join him and the life in me rears up.

 

Our Mother of Nuclear Imaging,

Mme. Curie would have understood the resurrective power

of applying the right shade of red at the right time.

Nothing says, “Discharge,” quite so exquisitely as Retro Rouge,

slathered on ready-to-leave lips and topped with a straw boater.

She was une immigrée Parisienne, after all.

 

5. “After Parking at Starbucks” by Jed Myers

I’ve opened the door to her dark

seat in the car. Mom offers

a skeletal arm, skin loose around

bone and what thready muscle

remains under blue tortuous veins.

 

I bow and take hold with one hand

a cradle for the creak of her elbow,

one where stiffened fingers can rest.

My hesitation’s hidden as I am

its lone witness—something fine

 

and brittle might break as I lift it

away from its place, like that china

cup I fumbled and dropped soon

as I’d slid it off of the hutch

for a better look one morning

 

when I was five or six. It had been

her mother’s, I heard her sharpened

voice insist as we stared

at the scatter of jagged white

bits on the floor’s innocent oak. It was

 

what remained of a set—one cup-

ful of distant comfort. Had I been more careful…. Gently I tug on her

arm, help her stand, and steady her

imperceptibly as she shuffles

 

beside me. The old shatters keep us

company—our wake of chatter.

There’s never a lack of the broken—

I hear a muffled clatter, a girl

in pieces it isn’t too late to hold.

 

6. “Leaking You Like Resin” by Lea Tsahakis

You are leaking from my life like resin.

 

It’s a slow, sticky process

the leave-taking of you

 

Attic Greeks knew the nectar well

Ancient amphorae coated with tenacious droplets

 

entrapping all that clings

a preservative for the ages

 

Let’s make merry with the pungent wine of the pine

And not sorrow for its loss

 

Does the tree feel pain

when amber blood oozes from its veins?

 

I think not.

 

You are leaking from my life like resin.

 

7. “DREAMY DRAW” by Chuck Collins

Rains carve stairways up to the saddles between peaks,

so do coyotes, whose evening calls fall over nearby neighborhoods like fog

and whose scat indicates a wily sub-dog presence

in a desert conspicuously empty of red berry bushes and fat lizards.

 

sharp thrusting beauty reaches handsomely heavenward

like the strident chins of aged men with uneven stubbles,

like a downtown building to a microbe on the moon

splendid anchored landmarks into harsh pulsing realities.

 

One bird, then two, swing in rascally chase

and then they retire to the place where they do private bird-things;

clement breeze likewise pushes persuasively

the stubble of green bushes with yellow delicious flowers.

 

The stones of a cathedral would wish to be so boisterous,

but visitors say, “This is great, but not compared

to that mountain home of coyotes and old mercury mines,”

as they remember their hike up into humble adoration.

 

8. “An Addendum to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (Baseball Edition)” by Michael Berecz

The feeling you get when you see a former member of the ’86 Mets

With another team’s uniform on –

 

And how old they’ve gotten to your eyes. The taste

Of a sip of warm beer near the end of the 7th,

 

But no time to do anything about it other than think of a time

When you couldn’t drink at the ballpark. The knowledge

 

That Shea Stadium no longer exists, that it’s been replaced

By something newer, something flashier, something named after a bank,

 

And the realization that that Shea – the one that belongs to you

And your mom – probably never existed anyway. The memories

 

Of the hours of your life spent at the ballpark –

How sometimes, at night games, when the stars beat out the lights for top billing,

 

You watch them more than the game. Their light frames the faces of the basemen

Like children holding sparklers, wonder expanding as darkness falls,

 

And you count them, like balls and strikes: How many there are. How big.

How powerful. How sad they are, and far away.

 

9. “August” by Margaret Sharp

Another hot August hangs

like my dog’s fat, pink tongue.

I will conserve energy,

pronounce only the consonants of words.

 

I prop my feet on the porch rail,

toes pointing in the direction of a hawk, circling.

If he were closer,

I would rise to the cool flap of his wings.

 

He is searching the field for dinner.

He might get lucky tonight,

enjoy a fat mouse that slept too long

and cooked himself on a hot rock.

 

The cruel sun is on the horizon, it heaves

toward the raw lip of the Earth.

Its pink and perfect light glows between my toes.

My legs are a pallid portrait of a summer spent in hibernation,

a season of poems, Moon Pie’s and melancholy.

 

Across the street, my neighbor eyes me

in that way only an old woman can.

She holds her watery gaze like a hunched commando

staring down the enemy.

She has taken a throw rug hostage,

beating it senseless with her black and blue emotions.

 

The sky is a spasm of color

slashing orange welts across the Earth.

Marmalade exploding on toast.

 

10. “Childhood—1952” by Judith Marks-White

Mother, did you know

While you were basting turkeys in ‘52

I was secretly sampling

Cream-filled chocolates,

Sticky-handedly

Fingerprinting the ivories,

My ankles’ skin

Peeled and itching

Inside patent leathers?

 

A fire crackled like cellophane

Amid the din of culinary commotion.

An assortment of cousins and

Giggling aunts

Hovered at the door

Like stuffed animals

In their winter furs.

 

Underneath the stiff crinoline-

The scratchy taffeta

My skinned knees bulged

Like fleshy red cheeks,

My heart bursting like champagne bubbles

On the rim of my bittersweet years.

 

 

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