Poetry 99: Adults

Adult winners

David Bell

David Bell

Photo By jason cassidy

First Place

Two-man Saw

Laced with poison oak,

pines lie like pick-up sticks

round the new cabin.

Teen-age brothers

come one weekend with

a rusty two-man saw.

Much later in his life,

while in an act of love,

the younger will recall

the sweaty push and pull,

a pungent ooze of pitch,

the both of them panting.

David Bell

David Bell lives and helps with the upkeep on a ranch near Orland, and it would appear that his natural surroundings offer plenty of inspiration for his poetry, both with his winning entry here and with his honorable-mention selection that follows. Bell is no stranger to writing, having worked in arts publishing in New York City and as an art critic for various art journals while living in Santa Fe, N.M. These days, he writes poetry as it comes to him—“I did years of deadlines, and nobody is waiting for the poetry anyway.”

Second Place

Phone Call from Rehab

The sky was numb, grey

as a dial tone.

My husband, in rehab

again, had just called.

“I don’t belong here,”

he boasted, “everyone’s a loser.”

I relayed the message to my parents,

and the same look from my father

Lisa Anina Berman

Photo By jason cassidy

I got as an eight-year-old

on my first hunt. I was standing

over the goose I had just wounded.

My father said, “You have to do it.

It’ll end the suffering.”

Tears fell on its downy feathers,

coarse and soft in my hands.

I held its neck, warm and supple,

and twisted.

Something inside snapped loose.

Lisa Anina Berman

Lisa Anina Berman is teaching academic writing at Chico State University while she works on finishing up her master’s thesis on the subject of, appropriately enough, poetry. The project is called “Salty Wild,” and features writing influenced by the environment and her own personal history, from childhood to her transition into adult life. Once finished, Berman hopes to teach at a community college.

Third Place

Elizabeth Nelms

Photo By jason cassidy

Holy Relics

Three dear blackgrey hairs

cling to an unwashed, folded

white pillowcase,

an ashes sandwich tucked

into a ziploc medicine bag closed vicious tight against


Is he in its creases?

Opened, spread, will sweat Barbasol bike leather

conjure him?

It lies hidden, not forgotten,

in the inky part of the bedroom closet

once brightened by a yellow plastic rain suit

that squeaked and swished when he walked.

Outside, a cleaner white pillowcase

lies centered atop a vast bed desert,

subject only to blonde.

Elizabeth Nelms

During her years working as a planner for PG&E, Elizabeth Nelms didn’t have much time to write. Now retired, she’s taking a writing class at Butte College with English teacher Molly Emmons, who suggested Nelms submit this poem—her first published work—which was actually taken from a writing exercise for a short story Nelms is working on.

Honorable Mentions


You didn’t come

to the river,

couldn’t see

the heron feeding near me

in the lilied shallows

how it rose and

blazed an arc

up twilight’s thickened green

to settle on the curtain

of the far bank

laced of oak and fox grape

where a trace of light

stayed to ignite

a second point of white

you couldn’t see,


David Bell

Country Sunset

The white grass flows

over field, stretches slow

brushing lushly

the sky’s ankles

like a cat

gently and softly


clamoring, body


up from down

where beasts crawl and


Claws a sun-

stenciled divide

Elizabeth King

Particle bored

My arms shake from exhaustion, too limp

for prolonged hugs, or heavy coffee cups

to clutter my afternoon.

No to humid air.

Boxes of “food” color cupboards

in molten, banal rainbows

pulling migraines from the center of my skull.

smell of green shag and old newsprint

give my senses no place to rest.

I crave the edge of town where hot pavement hits cool green,

waiting on paychecks

scouring base boards and lino

thinking of China or

someone else’s retirement plan.

clipping repressed coupons

rearranging them into sentences

trying to make you just understand the word


Muria Dilts


We built the fence

to contain

the daily detritus

just small enough to hold it all in.

You added your peels

I added my clippings

We tended it


it melded into

rich black anticipation


we never took the fence down

never worked in the possibilities

to make fertile ground.

Kandis Horton

We Lost Everything

What we lost had everything

to do with the inevitable ocean,

consuming stars, the ancient art of creating

the simplest day from the immediate heaven.

A perfect day, we said, would be a day

assembled of straw we gleaned in morning leisure.

We were caught by a seasonal eventuality,

and Ursa rises there as if duty bound,

as if the answer to misery were in a constellation.

At the edge of things there, we found

that things pile up on the ground

and that some time we will wade in things,

wade in an ocean made of soft earth.

Richard Ober



this heavy head hangs-

my rosette.

a neck so long and pale,

just caricature of my natural beauty.

I hear the blue haired ladies say I’m leggy…

marveling at my blushing leaves, deeper each day.

that creeping pink is my death mask,

but my barcode reads, ‘succulent’.

I had a name, a family: crassula.


a memory

I open my stomata, an old habit,

and sigh.

Tomorrow I will stretch further.

until my roots dry hard and crumbling around vermiculite.

This life, of an echeveria.

The last succulent in stock, dying elegantly at the check out in walmart.

Sarah Eblin

Crescent Moon

you’re a slip of a

girl in muslin dress, a

dancer posing arabesque

the smooth delicateness

of an egret’s neck

your mood capricious

prone to wax and wane

your smile a bow

straight aimed at the breast

of the men you’ve bidden

to fall besot by

the wink of one eye

yet you have not got

even half a heart, your

double tongue’s sharp

as a scimitar’s blade

to divide brother stars

for conquering, but

quickly comes the

tempest wind, to cast

you adrift, a sailboat in

unfathomable sea

so you may never

keep awake

another mother’s

lovesick son.

AnnaMarie Whiteley

Coo Coo Cachoo Love

Tap into pale ale and slurp up the foam,

Guzzle Sierra Nevada brew love.

Neil amid diamonds of sweet Caroline,

Hot August nights humming song sung blue love.

Mysterious ghost girl down by the pond,

Deathly liaisons turn of the screw love.

Tell me you love me in 59 words,

Peruse fictional News and Review love.

Bonded together in tight-fisted bliss,

Never release me with super glue love.

Cream velvet petals of flowers in bloom,

Nostrils flaring with Pepé Le Pew love.

John, Paul, George and Ringo down on all fours,

Sharon has found her coo coo cachoo love.

Sharon DeMeyer

My Son

He was three years, three months and eleven days.

I got on the bus, picked up my M16 and put him in a closet,

After three tours, years of VA, mountains of paperwork,

I became aware

six years after he skinned his knee, four years after took his hundredth swimming class, three years after he stopped calling me mommy, seven years after he stopped using sippy cups, five years after he stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy, eight years after I stopped being young and five years since dying was an option I liked.

“Thank you for your service.”

Sylvia Bowersox

Waiting for Bordeaux

Waiting for Bordeaux

Sweet garnet swirl in the glass

Beckett sipping slow

Sharon DeMeyer

The Gallery Wall

I contemplate my dream

on the gallery wall,

conceptualized in print.

I’m the wraith between the rock

and the wave, and the white hand

of God is reluctant

to restrain the incoming tide.

Lisa Anina Berman

to fall again

I remember

when I

first knew

my mind wept constellations,

my lips turned lunar,

and my heart plunged

like first rain



a foreign burden

of a second start:

I relive it

with every

good night

Chloe Catajan


Della me you I remember

the Playboy magazine

no worse Hustler


of things we’d never seen

could never see from our angle

but there that summer

in the ditch down the road

from your house

just past the cemetery

overgrown and neglected

we could see it all

Sharon DeMeyer

The Broken

Roof Jack keys unlock the moonlight

As she sings her sorrow to a bowl of stale cornflakes

The porch feels limited by its new dimensions

Resentment for the tree builds

Unaware she cries on and on into the night

Shawn Smith