Poetry 99 winners


Photo By Andrew Boost

First place

The finger that picked up a dead fly
by its wings under the window
stirred scotch in swirls among ice cubes
melting fast. That finger then
swiped itself dry on navy trousers
just back from her hospital job.
The owner of the fingers
watched yellow flames flicker
in a fat red candle, thought
of the masks and germs
and diapered babies of her day.
Took a deep swallow of the dark
golden drink and mused to herself
that alcohol sterilizes everything it touches.

By Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Second place

Afternoon Rain After Reading Wallace Stevens
The leaves announce the rain
in fits and starts of pits and pats.
The humid air released at last
to give cool breath to windowed throat.
My qualm exchanged for those small sounds
of little hands that dust themselves.

By Marilyn Ringer

Third place

It was the time
Eight thousand butterflies
Fluttered by,
Yellow, mostly yellow, a
Palette of pale yellows,
Blue eyes on their wings.
Their flight made
Daylight flutter,
Miniscule puffs of air
Thrummed my chest.
They swirled and settled,
Yellow wings still
Fluttering, lightly fluttering.

Did my feet leave the earth,
The air in my lungs
Turn a lovely yellow?
Did they lift me
With whispered promises
Of lightness, a soul
With wings? And
When they went,
Did I find the world
Beneath me a soft and
Airy sea that left me
Laughing, light, and free?

By Tom Parker

Honorable mentions

Cinderella, Once Removed
She stands
in limp satin
and early daylight,
adrift in a field
of star thistles.
Motel’s blind back
wall rebuffs,
street lies empty
as his promises.
She tastes night’s
foggy kisses
in a mouth
full of moss.

By Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Spare Change
I pass this homeless man
camped on the edge
of First and Main.
Mid-November, cool
and clear.
Vanilla latte warms
my unpocketed hand.

He’s bucklehunched
outside Blue Room Theatre,
slack-packed against a chain
link fence.

I watch tobacco fingers
roll a question.
Tobacco fingernails,
yellow moons
wax fantastic mojo

Yellow eyes,
gumboot eyes
hovering beneath
walrus eyebrows

My thumb traces orbits
in latte leftovers.
Nickel, quarters, dimes
Come Together
in my hand.
Beatles’ flattop groove,

Then, that question:

        And I wonder, does this spare change exchange
        change anything?

By Lisa Trombley

Lingering cigarette smoke:
the last (unpleasant) reminder of you


in the air tonight.
Awake, sleepless,
I inhale.

Letting go was not hard
once I finally did it.

You should know:
you did it long ago.
With a deep breath
you filled your lungs with smoke,
darkened your heart with poison,
spreading it forever
throughout your soul.

I remember the nights
we waged war more than
the nights we made love;
the fast beating of my heart
because of fear, not love.
I remember how you forgot
to love me,
our son,


I am awake, still, at last.

By Lee Xiong

The Loser
She was a natural mime
peeling madarins
and my reality away

She taught me the trick—
not to believe
but to forget
what’s not there

She returned from abroad
toting a prick
with long fingers
and big hands

An impromptu smoke-out
occluded the air
but the rich prick cut through
confiding he burns barns

I mapped out all possible casualties—
his whim
a month hence
and no damage

I sought him out
he confirmed he had torched
a sad little structure
he figured wouldn’t be missed

Her trick unsuccessful
smouldering in memory
my girl was gone.

By Linsey May

Hamilton City
In the tired green
& weedy yard,
the chinaberry tree,
lay an abandoned
bicycle with bent rims
and no seat.

the noisy grown-ups
were laughing
and tossing back
Sunday afternoon highballs
from glasses with
hand-painted red
“Hair of the dog that bit them,”
        They said.

Across the street,
at the house where the yard
        was just dirt,
Three small children
(one in bored and dirty organdy)
were digging
a pit to hell.

By Moira Gravier

“Time flies,” they say.
It glosses over all the fun we’ve had;
it seems to cast aside as unimportant,
it overlooks the days and weeks of worry;
sick kids, deadlines, stress, anxiety …
It demeans all efforts we have given
to meet with courage moments good and bad.

Time flies, but only when it’s packed with good things;
enjoy those fleeting moments so soon gone …
before time slows for long and weary hours.
Time moves on, waits, balances …
And so must we.

By Margaret Pence

Other notable entries

How a Beautiful Day Can Turn Black
you hear about
the wrecks the rapes        the wrath        the waste
you wake with the uneasy feeling
you might have been there

there’s the bitter taste of bile on your tongue
and the only thing to fix it
is the burn of raw whiskey going down

each time
the black curtain drops                 sooner and longer

By Stephani Schaefer
Los Molinos

Let Love Fall
Let love fall like
of spring.

Holy snow that won’t

Cover the asphalt
in a carpet fit for
like us can tread
on this living

By Karen Joy Brown

Mom in the 70s
if one were to ask
you’d find mom proud
(and lightly nostalgic)
of her Annie Hall
patchouli oil days

early afternoons spent
smoking with friends
perms and scrabble
drinking Annie Green Springs
laughing at their husband’s folly

symphonic strands
of bamboo beads
play eastern songs
as I dance into the kitchen
and cry for her cinnamon toast

in the evenings,
masala of smells!
curried-rice! tortilla soup!
saurbraten and red cabage!
cultural explorations of love.

By C. Kasey Kitterman

Spare Parts 3: Instant Tom Waits
Yeah, the moon was only a quarter Muslim,
hanging out at the horizon happy hour
feelin’ the start of a good glow about him,
and Venus was just wakin’ up, blinkin’ her one good eye
when she looked down and muttered
“Damn. I suppose you’re off to who knows where
with your planet buddies for the rest of the night,
leavin’ me with nothin’ but this same old twinkle-twinkle shit”
but they both just sighed,
knowin’ that there was nothin’ he could say,
knowin’ that in a few more nights
she’d be lyin’ right between his horns.

By Jim Dwyer

Full of Emptiness
In a room full of empty men
talking so much about nothing
to my listening.

Many polysyllables drip from
their finely tuned teeth,
C-sharp major when at full gallop.
They venture no further than
the safe bastion of ego,
and ergo.

Such rooms filled with such men
leave the world much more full—
of emptiness.

By Bill Iha

St. Margaret of the Hearth
What is misunderstood about a Saint: the everyday,
the bitterness of missed sleep,
the wince when the cat’s claw pierces the lip,
waking to this hunger and the same
faltering belief in the human spirit.

Today, Margaret thinks, must be the last
everyday before her Sainthood,
before that grand thing happens that happens
to martyrs, domestic ones —
when they no longer wish for a job
they like or a boyfriend who loves them
because they decide that all of life is suffering.

That’s the epiphany of St. Margaret,
as she stares into the pantry at packets of Friskies.

By Lynn Marie Houston

Star Proof
If I had real tangible wings
        (not just a pair of the metaphorical kind),
I would        fly,
arms out stretched into the sky,
and when I got to the

of the universe,
I would shake hands with every god—
all sittin’ on thrones drinking champagne.

I would dine with Osiris! and Dionysus! and Jesus!
I’d teach them how to play Scrabble,
I would tell them to answer our calls, or at least try.

I would capture
a         few         stars,
tucking them deep into my pocket
to prove to all the skeptics
of                 where
I’d                        been.

By Vanessa Ceccarelli

The Prototype of the Lindsay Lohan Doll Has Been Stolen
The prototype of
the Lindsay Lohan doll
has been stolen,
and the toy police
have been alerted.
Not since Barbie
was kidnapped
for a huge ransom
of Monopoly money
has the toy world
been so disconcerted.
A dragnet has been
thrown around me
but I’m holding out.
The world will see
they’ll never take that doll
away from me.

By Michael M. Peters

Rock don’t need no water
Rock don’t need no air
Rock don’t need no people
Rock don’t even care

By Z.A. West

You Have a Carpeted Home
You have a carpeted home now.
You killed the spiders
with bleach
and filled the holes
with Colgate.
You hang your towels with duty.
Folded like a letter
to fit the envelope.
Straightened and it’s correct.

Shouldn’t it be, after they;
absorbing the chlorinated
shower water from the
soft and deep curves in
your thighs.
(Behind your ears and down
the nape of your neck.)

Who else touches you the same?
You would not toss them
on the corner floor.

Even if it is freshly mopped.

By Ciara Fox

Travelogue — Short Stories
Fantasy dust devil morning finds her
at Lassen Park in an illegal campsite
shaded by the cindercone.
She dodges rangers and other traffic.

A man with a Labrador saunters
this way, his dog lumbering past her.
She gives the man leeway,
then brushes his thigh with a crow feather.
The rant of black in scrub oak above.

The man brings a harmonica at dusk,
a soft pillow, and a few dozen dominoes
he collects from his pickup—
they embody the stars, he tells her;
she spends the moonrise
with her fingers in their eyes.

By Kathryn Gessner

The wind seems but
a rush of air
until it settles down
and finds a tree.

Draws from its branches,
boughs and leaves
a melody.

But who will translate
the song of the wind
when all the trees are gone?

By Emerald Behrens