Poetry 99: adult winners

CN&R’s annual celebration of National Poetry Month

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First place

Burnt shirt

Long braids and long strands


Breathing normally and pressing up into the sheets

Prone and so unbelievably blue

Like a cyborg and an iris confused

Eyeballs like fishbowls

Canvas soothed

Every need harnessed

So sick with fire

Cold and the coming doom

Sweet doom

Smells that reprogram

Burn up slowly and sweet

William Parnell


First place? Not bad for a guy who doesn’t really write poetry. William Parnell used to be known around these parts as a rocker, playing bass for one-time local faves Deerpen. He says he’s recently started to try more writing, and that this piece was written on a whim, “almost like a form of therapy.”

Second place


Under the yellow of the street light

the large sycamore tree casts a shadow

we stand here

just off the sidewalk in the mud patch

her eyes grow big—listening

I have my arms raised to alert her

to the sound of the cranes

we have stopped mid-sentence

Emma Schutz Fort


Emma Schutz Fort has been writing poetry since her college days at UC Santa Cruz. She used to be a regular at local readings and says she recently dug up some of her old work and became inspired to write more. When she’s not writing or working as a school counselor, she likes to hike and enjoy nature.

Third place

A Moment

Tangled in the peanut butter

of late lunches,

Contemplating world affairs,

I giggle

and wink at the toaster.

Carolyn Singleton


Carolyn Singleton really enjoyed the process of editing her poems to fit the parameters of our short poetry contest. “It was fun. It was like a puzzle, only with words.” In addition to writing poetry, the retired special-education teacher enjoys reading poems and committing them to memory, especially the works of A.A. Milne.

Honorable mentions

Shadow Fertile

I think of Emily Dickinson as the

baby rolls inside of me.

I sit before the television doing printed cross-stitch

longing for the pure silence of her 19th century Amherst home,

for her ink pen carving the poetry of her solitude.

Somewhere her bones lie crumbling in a mausoleum

her auburn hair attached to a bleached skull.

As the child stretches and moves inside me

and domestic duties call to me

I think of Emily, of her shadow

fertile with words and imagery.

Jean Varda


No Harm

Newsflash: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish

recalled. I picture the boy

I babysit who begged

me for feeder fish

not knowing they were destined

to die. He loves crickets

in lizards’ clear cages, Ghost Shrimp

in algae, living rocks

that make the bottom look bright.

Nose pressed against the universe

of freshwater fish, I think he is safe.

I won’t tell him why

crickets don’t chirp for lizards long.

The goldfish he wants will do no harm.

When we get home, I will tell his mom

he ate popcorn, and goldfish

clotted in the tanks like curds

unspoiled in the whey.

Emily Novikov


On Being a Woman

The tulip tree blooms pink

then the rains knock all that beauty

to the ground. You stand inside,

watch the wind scatter petals

to the lawn. Like an anxious bride,

you want to be other:

form of salmon,

form of deer—

to slip through brush

with your own kind of beauty,

to swim the swollen river out to sea

and back again.

How else will you learn to navigate

the narrows when snags

keep catching your ribs, antlers;

how else will you learn

to struggle against this wind, to lean

into yourself with any kindness or grace?

Amy Antongiovanni


Thanks, Virus!

Sometimes I need a chrysalis,

shelter made from flesh and skin.

This brief cold helps. My shivering bod

cowers under a silent blanket.

I sink into my kind mattress

that guides me towards shimmering fever,

and rest here, wrapped in humming


My thoughts make no sense. So fine!

For a day I get wind chimes, gum balls,

Lincoln logs, purple bats, Jerry Garcia

dining with Sarah Palin,

a vacation from the real.

Welcome, night! I’ll reassemble me.

In the morning, strengthened by aspirin, throat lozenges,

black tea, I’ll crack awake and re-emerge

into history’s nightmare.

Paul Belz


Christmas Eve, Under the Freeway

I’m useless to you.

walking through the underpass.

Holiday rain sprays us all

as cars scatter puddles.

Dusk comes and holiday lights

start to flash—green ones, red,

are they meant to keep you awake

so you’ll go away? Bearded guy,

reading a wrinkled book,

flat faced woman glancing

from your shriveled sleeping bag,

thin dude guarding your upside down bike,

I’ll write about you all, OK?

Cars hiss as they pass. It’s wet. Cold.

I wave, offer nothing solid

to your turning away eyes. I’m useless.

Paul Belz

If I Were Brave

If I were brave, I wouldn’t store my words

like bags of rice under the floorboards

of mountaintop temples.

I would split them open, fry their bodies

recklessly, roll them off rooftops

like carrion, like rain.

Someday is sacrilege.

Words are for mouths,

and there is no greater pity

than a rotting meal.

If I were brave, I would slash them all:

the bags, the boards, the windows, the bell,

until the temple was heaving with

the froth of hungry vultures.

Evin Wolverton


The Photograph

I was transferring

our seventy-year Ektachrome lives

into digital images

when I saw her again.

She was standing

next to our powder blue TR3

tall, white shorts, pink tank top

amazing shoulders

curly light brown hair

green eyes.

Her smile

the teasing curve of her lips

mesmerized me.

Was I aware of how beautiful she was

back then

when we were first married?

Was I distracted

by grad school

my job

pleasing people

movie star manikins

my inadequacies?

I’ll have to see what she says.

Andrew Hanson


The End of a Road

I wandered down a rutted road

searching for devilry my heart desired

and came upon a hermit’s abode

where we spied each other and conspired.

Each the other we found attractive,

until our flirtations escalated to wild abandon

and we imagined a future full and seductive,

where love’s delectation lives simple and random.

The hermit, alone most of his life,

and me, almost never alone, agreed

love is a struggle of pleasure and strife

because happiness is not ever guaranteed.

So, we decided, in our old age,

our secret lovemaking is how we rage.

Anngreta Royale



The hand that led me here

no longer beckons nor leads

but slowly moves calipers over a map

of a country for which I have no visa

The place where I was born

is covered in roses

pulling it up

baking and unfurling in a cadence I cannot meter

I cannot seem to move around

without knocking things over

and rearranging the furniture

alas, does not protect me

from watching day turn to night

turn to dawn

in this patternless place

and oh, sadness

my heart bends and toughens

with the timeless certainty

that I am saying goodbye

Georgia Zweber


Let Them Know We’re Twins

Fourteen thousand circus clowns

Want to sing you “Happy Birthday”

On Saturday.

I know it’s not your birthday

But I don’t think you should say no.

Tell them you’re 52

But you feel 35

Even though you’re 28.

Lying is good when its for a good cause.

Ask for cake.

Tell them you’ll share

And then give it to me

And I’ll save it for when

You’re Ready to Have Fun.

Mike Hofstetter


Cold Reality?

They’ve created a toxic world,

we all grow more numb.

The network of vessels erupt, clay ingenue animals,


Destined to grow old.

Immense pressure.

It bursts.

Devastation of kimberlite flumes lose their stronghold,

a crushing weight of ash and smoke,

making ruins.

Destined fossils and treasures of future.

Just dirt animated by radiate, scalar vibrations.

Soon she’ll be cleansing herself of us.

Merely misfit parasites crawling upon her breasts.

Scars cover great expanse.

No reversing the poles, to turn the table for nirvana.

Flying through a hell that’s never ending.

Just another anonymous story of hate.

J.C. Kresch


Brave Enough

This spring weeps in profanity,

an illusion

of bursting beauty

But rather a renegade of


Still I like it.

I see you uttering sarcasm

through your lipstick so I stand taller

and smile

Brave enough for happy

Emily Salmon