Editor’s picks

More personal nods from Poetry 99’s most conspicuous judge

As I explained in the Poetry 99 introduction, Chico News & Review editors judged the 400 submissions as a team. I may be the Editor, but my vote counted the same as anyone else’s. So some poems I particularly liked didn’t make the cut.

Rank does have its privileges—so here are some of the poems that may well have made the honor roll had the CN&R Editorial Department been a monarchy instead of a democracy. (As for which pieces they might have displaced … well, not any of the first-placers, anyway.) The first two, incidentally, are from this year’s Fiction 59 winner.

Growing Up I Wanted To Be But Now I Am
What does one hear in a seashell?
The gummy digestion of krill
Water displaced
In the wake of the occasional whale
The impact
Of salt against kelp
Eels sidling to and fro
Looking for love
A pursuit
Like bald-headed men chasing Marilyn Monroe
   (But is there anyone willing
to submit to the hunt
Without first taking on
The hunter’s role?)
Crabs that look like massive heads
Moonwalk away from their shells
Hoping for something bigger.

By Emily Grelle

The Harvest
I often wonder how nectar tastes to bees.
   Because the tasting is routine
It’s probably no different
Than curling your tongue around water
Mute and smooth
As your mother’s voice
When you were a baby—
Sufficiently floundering
In the indigo night of the womb.

Unlike bees, we do not die when we sting.
The venom in our bodies never leaves
But with age grows indistinguishable
From our private fluids
We try to contain
while watching
our body fall away
(as if our legs
were stilts now flat
as pre-Magellan ground),
and wait
to taste nectar
like never

By Emily Grelle

untitled haiku
Unseasonal winds
Cause trees and road signs to bend,
Dust flies so freely

By Jay Goldberg

untitled limerick
I looked into a dog’s ear,
trying to see what he’d hear,
I saw a cat and a cow,
The cow said moo, the cat meow,
but mostly I saw grime in that ear.

By Jared Plaster,

In a Plastic World
flophouses shelter hordes
of the forgotten.

Penthouse, home for one
petulant prince of industry.

Disposable people sleep
on sidewalks.

A starlet twinkles
at her million dollar wedding.

Equity? A market term.

By Ann Doro

The Answer hung languid
In the air between them,
Not quite as solid as an idea
Or a thought or a motive
But solid enough yet
To drop it’s ponderous shadow
On the ground at their feet
Where it sat for a moment
Like a wavering question mark
Before scuttling off to seek
Some dank shelter,
As if in anticipation of the
Coming decision.

By Grady D. Manion

waves lap at my toes
salty cure for worried soul
tears on a warm cheek

By Aimee

Precarious Position
out on a limb
greedily traversed
your progress is halted
and speedily reversed
thick stalwart branches
once easily grasped
are gossamer thin
their reality has lapsed
the once sturdy limb
that once held your feet
has cracked at the edges
and is showing its meat
how did this happen?
your thoughts seem to scream
this path was so real
this must be a dream
accepting your fate
you cushion your fall
will the next tree you climb
be solid at all?

By Kyle Hartwigsen

Ode to a Krispy Kreme Doughnut
Circularly intended,
All calories suspended,
Beneath the green red banners
With strictly southern manners.

In uniform design,
Salaciously supine.
Beignet extraordinaire
Weightlessness; comme l’air.

Black coffee’s perfect mate,
Expectantly awaits
Movement by fingertips
To moist, ebullient lips.

Dough divine, devoured by teeth,
Evanescent, icing sweet.
Pale, propitious pawn,
Yielding, melting, gone.

By LS Clavey

This playground I must forfeit
The toys played with too long

Finally I must grow up
Leave childhood and
Be strong

I’ve hung out in this secret place
So easy to stay in
But lessons I must finally face
My future must begin

So i give you back your buckets
I give you back your sand
I give you back your kisses
I even give you back your hand

Your smile I’ll keep deep in my heart
I’ll visit you sometimes
whenever I come out to play
and sing our childhood rhymes

By Lisa Lewis

The Weight of a Woman
The weight of a woman
slides from her shoe
her foot tucking into her pelvis
—comfortable as wet grass
late in summer.
Infinite woman unaware
my secret gaze
light on her upper thigh
alternating desire and

in muddy vortex swirls
of coffee house rhetoric,
the self-important friend
opposite her
yapping on and on,
as a cold door opens
man, leather, swagger,
her shoe filled
angry, heavy,
his presumptions

Sad eyes
slip into
shoe leather worn thin
as paint peeled from
an old home,
the fantasy of her man
gone in the dialect
of his ego.

By Hammurabi Tiberias

(… on glimpsing a wounded soldier on t.v. …)
He looked so young
and kind of puzzled
at this thing which had happened in one ghastly instant
to change his life forever…

God, it’s too late to ask for protection.
Now he will need miracles, please;
daily miracles of patience, and grit, and spirit,
to learn to use those contraptions in order to function
with both hands blown off.

By Vi Berger

Letting Go
Tree branches swaying
Daffodils dipping
Crows gliding
Hair blowing across my face
skirt swirling around my body
tugging, pushing, prodding
You are not in control here
Laughs the wind
Come play
Let Go
I lifting my arms to the sky
spreading my fingers wide
twirling with the next wave of air
swaying, dipping, gliding
I set my expectations free
loosing them to the wind

By Nikki Schlaishunt

Same time next year
(a pantoum)Same time next year.
It’s what fate has in store —
to be close, but never near.
To finally dream no more.

It’s what fate has in store —
from an affair of the heart
to finally dream no more.
Together, but kept apart.

From an affair of the heart
to empty days without you
Together, but kept apart
and the loneliness rings true.

I gambled, but what did I win?
To be close, but never near
until I see you again,
same time next year.

By Lisa Joslyn