Poetry 99 adult winners

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

First place

The Last Supper

Deep in the night
wax pools as candles burn low
faint flickering reveals
the anarchy of the table
platters thrust aside, heaped
with bones, gristle and charred skin
beside toppled stacks of greasy plates
knives lie like fallen soldiers
the floor is deep with trampled morsels
floral garlands lie uprooted
strewn like fallen leaves
Guests, stuporous with gluttony
watch as the last bottle
rolls to the table’s edge and falls
The drunken guests having consumed
everything, argue over coins
heaped before an indifferent master,
oblivious to the veil lifting
before the cold dawn

Ann Morrissey

Dr. Ann Morrissey is a physician with Chico State University’s Student Health Services. Her entry included these footnotes:

Apocalypse Greek: -translit. apoca’lipsis, literally: the lifting of the veil

This poem was inspired by a woodcut by Thomas Couture, “The Supper After the Masked Ball”

Second place

The Beat

Your body’s sweet as honey, love
He murmured low to me
Exulted, plumbed the depths
Then drowned in viscous sea

I did not rue the dying
Nor the stilling of the beat
For life’s made up of little deaths
So few of them are sweet

Thelma Behrens

Thelma Behrens was in her 20s when she wrote this poem, so she offered a photograph of herself at 22 to include with her winning entry. A former San Francisco Chronicle writer, she has published one book of verse, The Seduction, which was later recorded by The Improv in San Francisco. Poetry runs in the family: Her granddaughter, Emerald, received an honorable mention last year.

Third place

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Down the Aisle

Had I but one minute
I would grab your thin t-shirt
Smash your torso against the dairy cooler in the market,
Push you down against the cheese
Drive my knee into your groin until the Yoplaits pop
Releasing strawberry-kiwi and key-lime splatters
Against our writhing limbs,
As I roll you out and onto the aisle floor,
Where I crack your skull onto the shiny perfect tile
And force my tongue into your silent mouth
To suck out one apologetic breath.

Hilary Beth Tellesen

It’s no surprise that Hilary Tellesen’s poetry is so visual: She’s wife of Chico artist Dylan Tellesen. This is the first time she’s entered her poetry in any contest and, incidentally, her kids write poems, too.

Honorable mention

Forest Clock

Does an old forest count the passing of time
moment by moment,
with mist and dew drop,
bird calls and scrape
of salamander claws?
Or does it mark time
with the business of trees;
pollen and cones,
the rise and fall of sap?
Or is forest time but the repetition of seasons
wet and cold, warm and dry
a quiet rhythm that,
like breathing,
goes almost unnoticed?

Ann Morrissey

Claudia’s Flowers

As I arrive at the mortuary,
a girl enters
with a bouquet of lilies.

So those are your flowers, I think—
they make me remember
when we picnicked on the lawn
and wrote prayers that we hung with string
from cherry trees.

Little Nolan got lost that day—
we looked for him,
searching flower beds,
dragging ponds,
until finally someone heard him
giggling at the top of the ladder
amid the dangling cherries.

How we laughed about that!
Comparing our search for Nolan
with our search for God—who, like Nolan,
was with us
all the time.

Shannon Rooney


After death,
illness, sex,
A stillness settles.
Reflection floods easily
Clarity reveals simply
Questions we never asked
For fear of

Karen J. Brown

Reflection on Bidwell Pool

Tai Chi mummers dance
underneath the oak-tree sig
“Watch for falling limbs.”

Joan Goodreau



The fliers were everywhere
an adult woman missing
and off her medication

But I remember her
as a young girl always smiling
constantly friendly
forever brave

I remember her
jumping off the old railroad trestle
her fine body
suspended in the sky like the sun itself
the gentle entry into water
and her joyful scream upon emerging

I remember her
and although we were not really close
my memory is of a young girl
more alive
than anyone stealing breath

C. Kasey Kitterman

Golden Parachute Party

Henry Paulsen with a lampshade on his head.
George Bush just got out of bed.
Fannie Mae gives the Lehman Brothers head.
The U.S. economy is officially dead.
Passed-out Bernanke now has a shaven head.
Cindy McCain is high on prescription meds.
Tainted Walmart food keeps the party fed.
Alan Greenspan dances to “Right Said Fred.”
Overseas accounts hold our taxpayers’ bread.
While America copes with a feeling of dread.

Alan Rutter

My Dead Wife

When my wife told me that she had died
I asked how she could talk.
Her teeth were brown, her tongue was gone
Yet, her face still registered shock.

When my wife asked where her finger was
I told her wolves must’ve dragged it off.
“That one had my wedding ring!”
The new wife spat a nervous cough.

When my wife asked why the bed was cold
I told her satin doesn’t heat.
I went back to the car, but before I left
I wrapped a blanket around her feet.

J Pluim

Black Butterflies

Disturbed by our feet
they rise from the foliage
on iridescent black wings
shimmering in the sun.
Stemless flowers moving
with grace
wings folding—unfolding
moving the air
in little feather breaths,
drifting out
to become
a lover’s sigh
gaining strength,
a gale.

Gloria Conly


Lying in the holiness
Of regular ol’ bath water,
I returned to earlier times
As an amoeba.
When nothingness
Was as exciting
As bee beards or crazy straws,
And there was no distinction
Between body and element.

When having a sex drive
Was unnecessary in knowing harmony
And the love of life
Was an automatic function
Like blinking.

Lying in the holiness
Of regular ol’ bath water,
My soul was as removable
As my appendix.

Matt T. Doyle

Other notable entries


there is no animal
in this poem,
no furry concept
inside the almost
empty house,
learning not to bark,
no cow-licked heart
no cow,
no heart,
no tarred and feathered
no toothless tiger
gumming up the wings.

Bob Garner


Rain washes away
my memories of you; rain-
bow water colors
flowing across the sidewalk
into the gutter. Clean slate.

Sharon Ewing


“Where is it?”
“Where did it go?”
In something?
On something?
I try to remember where I saw it last.
That one is me—
the one walking around
looking for my head.
The one asking,
“Have you seen it?”
“Where did it go?”
Yes that’s me,
looking for my head.
And, at the moment,
the cap
to the balsamic vinegar.

Leandra Courter

Crow Flight

Crows squadron
the July dusk sky
in staccato flight.

Their noisome caws
to some,
to me:
a melodic nature’s chant.

Late day sun iridesces
serrated black feathers.
Wings stroke
and glide,

each measure
a movement
closer to home;
each heartbeat,
a moment of hope.

Tim Milhorn

Third Bite

There is that moment slip
When her dress cuts like a slit
Up between, under the desk
And he looks the dirty old professor.

Crossing legs back and forth, hush-throated
Shoulders back,
A small black cough, after a long toss of the hair
Thrown over.

Across that still moment
When the others become dusty chalk nothings
And the second hand clicks under the spotted square,
He puts his third bite into her neat fold.

Hilary Beth Tellesen


You shower me with riverbanks shimmering
in autumn splendor. I smile, sitting amid this treasure
of oak-dotted hills rolling from water’s edge.

I am your queen, riding in the front of your canoe-barge—
the royal one,
surveying her subjects: otter, salmon, deer, eagle.

You give me all of this: a riot of bold color and freshest wind,
a tour through opulent, willowy kingdoms.
You give me kingfisher,
osprey and mallard,
the delicious aroma of mugwort and mint.

Creation bows before me
when you guide me through these waters,
as I perch, in your canoe-barge—
powerful, sovereign, mighty.

Shannon Rooney

Water bed

This trough of despair
This pressure drop
Won’t stop;
The forecast:
Continued unsettled and unfair

After gray days without a friend
After the blue moon failed to send
Blessings, bestowals, bleach
For my black fog,
I’m on this bridge
Looking at whitecaps
High above land’s end

The steely span can absorb
Scores of syncopated shoesteps;
Sanguine, solipsistic sprinters
Pass me by
Won’t stop
Can’t fathom me
Or any other shipwreck

I’ve come round to the long view
I’m not dizzy, dazed
Or jumpy;
The fast lane to anywhere
Holds no hope of anything new

Steve Brown

Peace Is Harmony
in the Absence of Fear

Seeing isn’t believing unless your vision’s worth conceiving, a chance
for one to find his own, a life that’s worth revealing.

Don’t cheat yourself, for time passes quick, your regrets are your
fears reversed with a click. A click for a clock, what chickens do
best, an eye for an eye will live like the rest.

Perceptions, conceptions, they’re all in your court, grab control of
your mind, find peace of some sort. Forget all the culture, the
boundaries, the mirrors, be one with yourself,
your eyes and your ears.

Peace is harmony in the absence of fear.

Robert Handley