Suellen Wedmore, “The Iceman Cometh”

Erica Mumford Prize, selected by Moira Linehan
Winning Poet: Suellen Wedmore, “The Iceman Cometh”

 

The Iceman Cometh
          ─after visiting the Iceman Exhibit at the Museum of Archeology,
Bolzano, Italy

Ötzi: Freeze-dried & copper-skinned,
          you played hard-to-get in a prehistoric
hide and seek, waiting five thousand years

          to be found, head thrust out of a glacier’s
warming, an arrowhead buried in your shoulder,
          eye sockets empty, left arm awry.

Pulled from ice, we greet you, frost-
          cacooned behind museum glass,
fingers curved as if for a long nap.

          Born before the pyramids rose at Giza,
before Stonehenge circled Salisbury Plain,
          I try to imagine you in your prime–

making love, crying, singing,
          all those things that make us human;
(mankind ingenious, even then

          judging from your fine-stitched coat,
your leggings of supple goatskin).
          You carried necessaries unavailable

to us now, even schooled
          as we are, industrialized, computerized:
you fashioned arrows from viburnum limbs,

          built a fire each night from embers
nestled in leaves in a birch bark urn,
          and sewn by an agile hand

with lime tree bast. They gave you a name
          to make you seem more human,
though your shoes did this for me—hay

          tucked around your feet with netting,
a leather strip across the sole for grip,
          grit for a hostile world.

 

Suellen Wedmore
Poet Laureate emerita for Rockport, Massachusetts, Suellen Wedmore has published three chapbooks: Deployed, published by Grayson Books, On Marriage and Other Parallel Universes, published by Finishing Line Press, and Mind the Light, published by Quill’s Edge Press. In 2004 she graduated from New England College with an MA in poetry.

Vivian Shipley, “A Gift for My Seventieth Birthday”

Barbara Bradley Award, selected by Marjorie Thomsen
Honorable Mention: Vivian Shipley, “A Gift for My Seventieth Birthday”

 

A Gift for My Seventieth Birthday

The man selling the Sunday New Haven Register
at the State Street ramp could be my oldest son,
drunk, out of work again. If his mother were stopped
by the light next to him as I am on my birthday,
would she also be grateful he is not dead, maybe
buy a paper, tell him to keep the change? Smoking,
door open, elbowing out of a rusted burgundy
Mercury, he leans on his thighs. He does not get up.
His full head of hair brushed back like my father’s,
I can’t stop staring at furrowed cheeks that arrow
my heart back into Appalachian hollers. Orange vest,
his arms are a macramé of faded burns, cuts, welts,
not from barbed fences or baling hay, but overalls sag
with red clay dirt that could have come from suckering
tobacco in Kentucky fields. I picture him walking
Skiff Street probing seams for change in couches left
on the curb. I wish I had clear bags of cans and bottles
I left by Shop Rite for people who need the deposit,
redeeming what they can. He is not my son, I am not
his mother. My light is green; I can drive away.

 

Vivian Shipley
Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, Vivian Shipley teaches at Southern Connecticut State University. In 2015, she published two books, The Poet (LaLit Press at Southeastern Louisiana University) and Perennial (Negative Capability Press, Mobile, AL) which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and named the 2016 Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist.

Vickie L. Weaver, “Judging Poetry”

Barbara Bradley Award, selected by Marjorie Thomsen
Winning Poet: Vickie L. Weaver, “Judging Poetry”

 

Judging Poetry

Each year I judge a poetry
contest on a certain theme.
Enamored, I’ve read and scribed
poetry since I was a child,
as confined as each story
within this metered form,
measuring the metaphors,
choosing roses over thorns.

My life’s had themes divergent,
from love and grief to joy and time.
So, who am I to set your confinement,
judge your imagery and rhyme,
contrast the old against the new,
and render fair, good or excellent?
Somewhere between now and then
you are me and I am you.

 

Vickie L. Weaver
Lifelong poet Vickie L. Weaver is a freelance writer/editor/journalist, blogger, and owner of Writestyle. Her rhyming picture book, My Child, I’ll Still Be Loving You, highlights the parent-child bond while her biography, Dancing in the Stars, entertains and inspires via dance, romance, history, Vaudeville and Hollywood. “Poetry forever!” she says.

Paula Bonnell, “Fooling Around With Words”

Rosalie Boyle / Norma Farber Award, selected by Wendy Drexler
Honorable Mention: Paula Bonnell, “Fooling Around With Words”

 

Fooling Around With Words

Sestinas always seem false to me,
the same six words, repeating themselves
over and over in an odd pattern
(if patterns can be odd, that is)
like a muttered, half-remembered
refrain impossible to get right.

It’s odd to think of getting verses right.
The question should be, Does it speak to me
in voice and words as true as if remembered
by someone else who might have been myself
or just the voice of “That that is” –
the one who knows, without a pattern?

What could be more untrue than pattern?
Surely Amy Lowell was right.
That that is not is not, is
not that so? A question told me
as a child recurs as now I ask myself
What is invented? what remembered?

They’re kindred faculties, memory
and imagination, both turn and return
to moments when we were ourselves,
so self-forgetful everything seemed right
(the way that moment opened as you touched me:
the clouds, the sun, salt breeze – all that was

before us, dunegrasses stirring – now is
astir within). Outside, no more of -ember,
no more of -ary. March sings to me
of April and of May, a welcome pattern
flutters in with birdsong as these green tips right
themselves, emerge from dirt to be themselves

and sprout and reach and flower, overflow themselves
with blossom. All that’s thawed is
growing, flying, grasping straws that feel right
to build nests with as birds remember
the way they built before, and pattern
varies pattern: the April fool is me.

 

Paula Bonnell
At fifteen, Paula Bonnell found a small blue book called “The College Book of Verse,” plunged into it, and became consumed with a desire to make her own poems. Years later, intermittent visits from the muse have yielded results pleasing to some discerning readers, so PB may have achieved Terry Malloy’s ambition.

Jean Kreiling, “Finally Found It”

Rosalie Boyle / Norma Farber Award, selected by Wendy Drexler
Winning Poet: Jean Kreiling, “Finally Found It”

 

Finally Found It
(the name of an antique store in Maine)

As she pulled off the road, tired of the rain,
and parked outside the big, gray-shingled store,
she wondered if she’d find it here in Maine.

It seemed unlikely. She watched runoff drain
out rusty downspouts, then walked to the door
and pulled it open, shaking off the rain.

She saw a tarnished brass headboard, a plain
oak butler’s desk, a single weathered oar,
and lobster traps (you find them here in Maine)—

not things that she had sought, but these mundane
objects each told a tale, preserved the lore
of distant days along this road. The rain

began to echo rumblings in her brain:
she liked it here, where history was more
alive than dead. What had she found in Maine?

The raindrops seemed to mutter a refrain
of welcome, an old song she’d heard before;
she felt the timeless pull of home. The rain
insisted that she’d found it—here in Maine.

 

Jean L. Kreiling
Jean L. Kreiling’s first collection of poems, The Truth in Dissonance (Kelsay Books), was published in 2014. She is a past winner of the Able Muse Write Prize, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters Sonnet Contest, two New England Poetry Club prizes, and the String Poet Prize.

Alfred Nicol, “An Indelicate Proposal”

Rosalie Boyle / Norma Farber Award, selected by Wendy Drexler
Winning Poet: Alfred Nicol, “An Indelicate Proposal”

 

An Indelicate Proposal

Let us conscript an army of old men
and shake them from the napping-dream of peace;
let them rejoin the wars that never cease
and heat thin blood to simmering again.

When young men die in battle, more is lost.
By laying down their lives while they are strong
for fields they haven’t harvested as long,
they pay a lesser debt at greater cost.

So let us press the elders into service.
They will be recognized and celebrated,
no longer penned inside, emasculated,
clucking like old hens, ruffled and nervous,

ready for the freezer or the fryer.
What difference if the end is ice or fire?

 

Alfred Nicol
Alfred Nicol’s most recent collection of poetry is Animal Psalms (Able Muse Press, 2016). Nicol has published two other collections, Elegy for Everyone (2009), and Winter Light, which received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Commonweal, The Hopkins Review, and other literary journals. Visit alfrednicol.com.

Hagop Missak Merjian, “Father (19??-1997): Chiromancy”

Daniel Varoujan Award, selected by Fanny Howe
Honorable Mention: Hagop Missak Merjian, “Father (19??-1997): Chiromancy”

 

Father (19?? – 1997): Chiromancy

          Who would carve words must carve himself,
          first carve himself; and then alas
          finds, too late, that Word is only Hand.
– Aiken: Time in the Rock 42

His hands were the first language I learned.
And in their riven death, the last.

These were hands that might have learned to
Weave Hittite mandalas into Persian kermans,
To carve and curve the tympanies of Turkish brass,
And shake the shakhshakha in incensed ceremonies
Deep in the ocher penetralia of tuffa cathedrals—
Those peasant bull churches—which, for Mandelstam,
Crumble and break…the teeth of your vision.
They would have preserved the secrets of
Curing camel’s flesh, making the basturma
His father made with his fathers before him.
Instead, nations orphaned his lost people.

Possessing only the languages of the East
He came to America, worked like a hamal for
Sixty years, desperate to earn The Dream,
Building his small Rugs and Carpets shop,
(Weaving/Washing) with his own hands,
Until one day the Machine of the Good Life
Locked his hands in its gleaming steel rollers
And drew off his fingers, one by one.

Deep in the nepenthe of strong anodyne,
His hands, or what were his hands, bloated,
(Bandaged white balls like boxers’ mitts),
Hoisted up like a rood splayed on davits,
In the deep tenebra of his delirium he muttered:
This is my punishment for killing those who
Were killing us. This, hairig’s savaged heart.

I will never know if the teeth of the dragon
Were sown in the dark soil of his lost youth.

Nor shall I know if those hands, now gone,
Were doomed to kill or bless.
What I do know is that I still dream of his
Whole and steely hands,
And of their lost caress.

 

Hagop Missak Merjian
Hagop Missak Merjian has been a teacher all his life and spent years teaching in Cairo, Egypt, and Thessaloniki, Greece. He writes: “I have a large collection of poetry/memoir and hope to enjoin a publisher—soon—for I am old. But not to worry, Aeschilleus was 89 when he wrote some of his most poignant dramas.”

Diana Woodcock, “Fire Raging, Questions Blazing”

Daniel Varoujan Award, selected by Fanny Howe
Winning Poet: Diana Woodcock, “Fire Raging, Questions Blazing”

 

Fire Raging, Questions Blazing

          Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far into the future, you will gradually,
          without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

A fire raging in my hair,
I live the questions now as best
I can, though I admit I do at times
attempt to answer them.

But mostly I trust Rilke was right.
When Harvest Moon beams on wild
asters in bloom, and light and dark
present themselves in equal balance,

when I taste summer in apple and chestnut,
perceive maple leaves becoming all fire
and the full moon cooling every lingering,
nagging desire – filling me

with compassion, when I refuse
to turn away, living the questions today
though bits of shrapnel lodge
in my skin, and I’m torn between

pop culture and politics,
saints and heretics, when I whirl
in my white robe in the company
of gulls and ghosts along the deserted

Inland Sea’s coast, when I finally believe
with my whole heart this is all I need –
little dot of a desert with its rapt light
delineating a thousand shades of tan,

brown, white – when camels,
earth spirits and wildflowers become
my mentors, fire raging, questions blazing,
no end to the suffering, the dunes

continually shifting, hamadas and gravel
plains cracking, white-cheeked bulbuls
flashing yellow vents like glints of gold
as they flush out insects and moths

from the lofts of desert scrub.
Fire raging, living the question:
What in God’s name
could it possibly be for –

this latest insane war?
My neighbors just back from
their country, Iraq – telling
the horrors, eyes full of sorrow.

And I, from Cambodia –
landmines still claiming limbs,
mosquitoes lives. Fire raging
in my hair, I would live spare –

spin Khmer silk in a room
small and bare. Living
the questions – this world,
the next – each question mark

a glimmer of hope, pinprick
dispelling the dark, each one
a likely key to unlock the deepest,
most guarded answer.

 

Diana Woodcock
Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and two collections of poetry, most recently Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale. Her third collection, Tread Softly, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press. She teaches creative writing, environmental literature and composition in Qatar at Virginia Commonwealth University’s branch campus.