Poetry 99: adult winners
Advil and Knee Socks
All day the crows nest in your eyes,
darkening their sharp wit against me.
Beak to beak, feathers alight
with slick admonishment;
they pecked me
and I left a shadow of myself
in the hall.
The musk of wet cement,
the dripping leaves,
the rain-soaked yellow of the crosswalk.
Someone is yelling at you;
their voice dissolves
into the moment.
My mouth is dry.
You lean in, curiously.
A dark arm droops
out the window
of a passing car;
it is 3:44.
The geometry of grief
Last year, Rebecca Kuehne was a Chico High senior who took both second and third places in the high school division of Poetry 99, and this year, with her first try in the much more competitive adult category, she’s cleaning up again, taking both first and third places. Now studying English at Butte College, Kuehne continues to write poetry and songs, and is excited to be performing her indie-folk originals at local open mics.Second place
I love belly-jeweled lipstick,
speak cellophane- rigid twisted lightning
I love suddenly, asking the water sweet lures
I let go of blood money
Pivoting on horizon
I follow shifting mountains
I hate surprise
I forget embroidered fingertips taste organic
My soul says plummet
My heart says curve
My mother says 1-800-diamond ring
I am from blue moon in every room
I remember crooked promise on shelves
I come from scattered violets
My creek says mimic memory
My shadow says patient spider
I am asking nonstop.
Emily Salmon’s writing takes many forms—poetry, children’s books and even a memoir. She’s been working on the latter for about nine years, getting to it as much as a mother of five can. Salmon says she enjoys photography and getting outdoors—especially to the ocean and the redwoods—and is also “a pretty devout yogini,” working as a yoga instructor and massage therapist on the side.Third place
I want to speak
of something other
Last night, I sat in the damp
grass and mistook my fingers
for roots—slick, creaking
shoots, digging for hidden
but that was last night.
Tonight, I watch the cold
white of headlights
carve a path past the horizon.
This time, you are not chuckling,
with dew at your throat,
or sunlight slung
between your shoulders.
This time, you are only caught
between God’s teeth,
crushing out another promise
-Rebecca KuehneHonorable mentions
Jarod and Jake
Go back to the beginning.
Your sweatshirt is on the rocks.
Town lights shifting below
red to blue.
Bobcat dry grasses rattle
when the wind picks up, falls off.
Only a chip of moon but god the stars…
Our bikes on their sides beside us
Faint clicking wheels searching
the heavenly numbers
teasing the combinations.
Emily’s hand is on her phone
but it won’t ring tonight.
She thought she’d win you.
“Shooting star” you murmur
the third one tonight
your mouth against my ear
my pulse trying to temper
the wild power between us.
My father’s mother
let him as a teen
keep red-tails as pets
and once, azure feathered
bluebirds bewitched her
while driving, yet
she wrecked birding
twice, they say
Craning my neck
in the car admiring
what rust flash of hawk above
or wresting the wheel
from my daughter who’s learning
while spying barn swallows smugly
I’m reminded of her
though she died before
my birth, and while
her dust isn’t diamonds
any more than mine is, still,
the thrill which nature stirs
with iridescent wings
is a gift, a glimmer
Autumn Arrives (In Five Haikus)
In loll of dusk, I watch
crimpled blades of grass writhe
under wayward breeze.
Behind me, moths quiver
to the blurred porch bulb,
collecting what heat they can.
Near the street, in gravel
by first leaves, a cat
contemplates its paw.
I splay my palms to catch
the tattered light; calluses
have left, softened by neglect.
Unlike the swell of spring,
stonecrop blossoms, lifting
autumn in my heart.
I am not from this place
with its stones and apples on the ground,
rogue vines climbing marginal fences,
small pewter birds in tulip trees.
I am foolishly suspicious of hard love
and the rest of which my best is made.
She would never believe that I come here
without thinking of her, that I am not retreating
from her, that I am more frightened
of being alone than of being with her. She would not
smell the tulip trees the way I smell them. She would
breathe deeply, making it an occasion. But I am not from here.
A thousand daily softnesses
fog me around
condense on my arms, my thighs
down to my fingers and to my toes.
I feel through the mist
to the magnets lodged under the skin
of my children
that draw my lips,
and then push me back through it
to the opposite pole of your unshaven cheek
Skunks and Crickets 1979ish
Perhaps it was 1979 … listening to the cars … singing “let the good times roll”
the pavement rolling like an oasis
1971 Nova — floating like a dream across the Sacramento River
one hundred degrees felt like a hot bath
after the vinyl cooled down—it was nice
window rolled down—you could smell the water
crickets you could hear them …
skunks you could smell them too …
the sun sizzled as it landed in Shasta Lake
poetry makes complete sense in 5th grade
“only the good die young” busted onto the radio
the days lasted for days
that’s what I remember
-Leonard R. Hubbard
The Man Who Leapt from the Edge of the Earth
Pale leaves quake on tenuous holds
turning vulnerable undersides to a consuming sky.
Orphaned confidence is no way to stay in love with angled ground.
Hope is thin dust. Stones shatter under the burden of all this air
in summer, dark heat with sharp stars slashing.
To collect oneself up in clenched hands,
or place one’s own hand in the middle of the back
and insist on the antagonistic step into vacancy,
demands soulful concentration so as to overcome heaven, daughters,
oceans, wet sand. Wet breath, heaved and flung.
The ocean becomes an obligation, eyes tight
Against stinging wind.
Her touch is so easy I’ve seen her walk on vestal diamonds of fresh snow and leave their virginity intact.
She once walked up behind God and caught Him by surprise with a hug around the neck.
“Who the hell are you?!?”
Rain spatters the lanes, where warped glass windowpanes
Grow tears as the dust is disturbed.
The candle-light flickers, the old plow horse whickers.
Lines between earth and sky are blurred.
Blackened wood creaks, as the old gate squeaks.
The weary drunk’s words are slurred.
From drooped, red-rimmed eyes, the wisps of life fly.
Into dreams his soul is interred.
Sometimes in the shower,
lathered and bare,
my body remembers.
A thousand tongues
rough and warm, navigate
and dipping valleys. Butterflies
emerge from crocheted
flutter and flounder
through crevices deep.
Then deeper. Hands search
reaching out, finding
between. Wings wet.
to the floor.
-Lisa Anina Berman
It was an every day
dry dirt pulling hard on our soles
(to keep us on the ground)
dry dirt alley between two orchards
(little brother faster every day)
at the end of the rows
the old Ford
mystery of rest
We never touched it
we circled it forever
piled up walnuts all around it
drew in the dust with our toes
silent, dirty, bewitched
Dad-coaches stand in the dugout
bellowing like old engines
as their boys score runs
they slap the boys on their backs
knocking them forward as they walk
the score changes, like scores do
their boys don’t get any runs this inning
now the dads don’t touch the boys at all
the boys walk back with their heads down
one dad throws his hat in the dirt
I hear them yelling, telling
the stories of their own childhoods
all the things they lost
all the things they want back
when their boys go up to bat.
-Sadie Rose Casey
I stand and linger
Finger the end of my tie
and talk to Tina
toys were different
when we were kids
As I pull away I see him
he stands in the bay window
I wave, craning to see him as I go
He is waving.
My eyes see his little man shirt, his smile.
His eyes are following the wheels on our car.
The word hadn’t cleared my lips before
it yanked upward like
an untied balloon
and singed the ceiling.
In the yolks of their eyes,
oil spread through an overflowing bathtub
and a flock of pelicans heaved off
from the roof of a burning motel.
An ant on the hook
on the ceiling—It’s alive and well
though it crawls nearer long leg’s
thin strands drifting over lamp
of restless gnat—The ant makes
through unscathed as long leg
bounces with web, and gnat
taps towards harmonious light.
Second to Last Will & Testament
If I’ve double-bounced off this trampoline
into a neighboring dimension,
embarrassment has no jurisdiction.
So this will have to do:
Split me into lines with my unused library card,
and hand the straw to anyone who
carried me in darkness long enough to
grieve me in the light.
No coffins and no coffee cans, please
don’t you even try.
Blast Brooks & Dunn and dump the rest
on down the waterslide.
“Boot Scootin’ Boogie” til the speakers blow,
too loud and dumb to cry,
and some new christened pervert
feels the twinkle in her eye.