Poetry 99: adult winners

Word artists

Rebecca Kuehne

Rebecca Kuehne

First place

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

is unforgiving.

-Rebecca Kuehne

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

Emily Salmon

I love suddenly, asking the water sweet lures

I let go of blood money

Pivoting on horizon

I follow shifting mountains

I shift.

I hate surprise

Rain, snow

American kitchen

The Cellar

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

Camera lost

Elbow wool

My creek says mimic memory

My shadow says patient spider

I am asking nonstop.

-Emily Salmon

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

than sunsets.

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

of daybreak.

-Rebecca Kuehne

Honorable 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.

-Kenneth O’Connor


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

to frighten

while spying barn swallows smugly

diving away

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

of her

in me

-AnnaMarie Carter

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.

-Kevin Svahn


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.

-RH Ober

A thousand daily softnesses

fog me around

condense on my arms, my thighs

and drip

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

euphoric, yielding,

to the opposite pole of your unshaven cheek

-Ruth Greenfield

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.

-RH Ober


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?!?”

-Dante Ashby

The Moors

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.

-Aline Ingelson-Filupa

Wet Wings

Sometimes in the shower,

lathered and bare,

my body remembers.

A thousand tongues

rough and warm, navigate

curving hills

and dipping valleys. Butterflies

emerge from crocheted

labyrinths. Wings

flutter and flounder

through crevices deep.

Then deeper. Hands search

wander, wonder,

reaching out, finding

the space

between. Wings wet.

Butterflies drop

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

rusty, magnet,

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

-Ruth Greenfield

Little League

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.

-Johnny Stafford


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.

-Evin Wolverton

Apartment Life

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.

-Kevin Svahn

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.

-Evin Wolverton