Poetry 99: adult winners
CN&R’s annual celebration of National Poetry Month
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
Every need harnessed
So sick with fire
Cold and the coming doom
Smells that reprogram
Burn up slowly and sweet
ChicoFirst 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.”
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
ChicoEmma 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.
Tangled in the peanut butter
of late lunches,
Contemplating world affairs,
and wink at the toaster.
ChicoCarolyn 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
curly light brown hair
the teasing curve of her lips
Was I aware of how beautiful she was
when we were first married?
Was I distracted
by grad school
movie star manikins
I’ll have to see what she says.
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.
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
Let Them Know We’re Twins
Fourteen thousand circus clowns
Want to sing you “Happy Birthday”
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.
They’ve created a toxic world,
we all grow more numb.
The network of vessels erupt, clay ingenue animals,
Destined to grow old.
Devastation of kimberlite flumes lose their stronghold,
a crushing weight of ash and smoke,
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.
This spring weeps in profanity,
of bursting beauty
But rather a renegade of
Still I like it.
I see you uttering sarcasm
through your lipstick so I stand taller
Brave enough for happy