Best poem


Catherine Fraga

Catherine Fraga

Catherine Fraga

64, English professor at Sacramento State, Carmichael

Yard Sale

When someone else’s sadness

sends me out, I fill the hours

with the temporary distractions

of other lives.

Down H Street,

dresses softened like old paperbacks

a tin John Wayne wastebasket

two flannel nightgowns

hanging in frail fullness

miniature Christmas firs

crafted with plastic needles

a 1972 Music Circus poster

a faded River Cats hat.

I touch everything—

fingers gliding over

all the possibilities

until I have seen enough,

until my breath catches

in my throat like water

being sucked down a drain.

Honorable mention

Andrew Jones

31, high school English teacher, Sacramento

Andrew Jones

The Man in the Train

I sat pointless when his jacket

caught in the closing

automatic door as,

his banging fists unheard,

the train harangued forth with him

gripped steely to the bare exterior

of the SacRT commuter

which tore through traffic

not ever slowing even

when the ticket agent

was made aware to this danger

by a hollering Jamaican woman

and he mumbled frightened into his radio

that a man was pinched in the doors

like an ort of spinach stuck

between incorrigible lips


the train arrived unbothered

at 29th Street

where the man, finally freed,

boarded the instant

I disembarked onto the yellow platform

and was followed by

unidentifiable stuff

thrown from the mouthy entrance

whose owner seemed obvious because he—

the very same he!—

stumbled out after his stuff and me

into the cacophonous evening air

and chattered with an old man

lost in a plastic bag.

I threw one leg over

my bike to pedal home,

yet much of me remained at the SacRT

stop, pondering and prodding

at that trapped man

as a tongue may peruse the widening gap

between gum and loose tooth,

thinking that while he clung to his burden,

I sat sending some dumb text,

safe in my seat,

unaware that outside my world

a dust-jacket man clutched

the entire train,

foretelling yet forbidden from

the story crushing his sleeve.

Honorable mention

Sue Owens Wright

Sue Owens Wright

71, author and artist, Sacramento

City of trees

Sacramento, city of trees,

bright green waves in the Delta breeze;

trees I climbed as a child

when I was wild and skinned my knees

shinnying up those trees.

Trees that bow

to touch strong hands

on downtown streets in regal stands,

shading those who passed along

in jostling wagons to this golden land.

Trees that whisper evensong,

casting shadows long beside the river trail

where shy quail gather chicks

along the quiet banks

where cottonwood grow strong.

Mulberry, elm, oak, and birch,

myriad hues of browns and grays

leafy church to them who praise

sentinels that shield our kin;

Sacramento’s trees, sheltering all our days.