Poem of the Year: May 2012-Apr 2013 Judged by Frank WilsonI could have chosen any three of the 24 poems I was sent to consider. They were all that good. The choice was so hard I decided to live with the poems for as long as I could and revisit them from time to time and see which ones, for whatever reason, attached themselves to me. So, although all of the the others have their own distinctive merits, the final choice became strictly personal. I am surprised myself that the trio is so melancholy, though I think, for all the sadness on the surface, deep down all three somehow depict a victory. –Frank WilsonFirst Place:Rain Taxiby Bernard Henrie, of PenShells
Rain follows my taxi from Manchester Piccadilly
My mother will be buried in the storm, black umbrellas
keep her dry, a stiff navy dress buttoned to the neck.
A Merlion spits water into falling rain.
Her face wistful like a girl in the Corps de Ballet.
I’ve saved two photos, a speech in Hyde Park
for the suffragettes and a pose marked
Egyptian Camel as she visited the pyramids.
Plunging rain, no relief; half-plugged drains, pelted
zinnias in stained flower boxes, the early light drawn
with a child’s soft chalk.
My empty 3 AM poems. The BOAC bag
of clean underwear pouched on the dresser.
I visit my publisher, the ramshackle offices
are dark as the Muslim Brotherhood just taking
power this month in Cairo.This poem intrigued me from the start. The title alone is an elbow to the rib of imagination. A taxi made of rain. A taxi dropping rain off. As it happens, the rain is following the taxi, which is on its way to a burial. Of someone's mother. It is a plunging rain, but umbrellas will keep the deceased dry. Among the memorabilia is a photo of the mother years before visiting Egypt (her homeland, perhaps?). Then poems and a publisher, and offices dark as fanatics. The taxi has travelled a long way in just a few lines, from one grief to another, from the pyramids to the Muslim Brotherhood. The state of the world and the state of a soul are rarely placed so deftly—and disturbingly—in alignment. --Frank Wilson
~~~~~Second Place:Gretel Grows Upby Teresa White, of Wild Poetry Forum
I never wander far from home
while the sun peels paint from twenty-year old
siding or the blood of rust trickles off
billboards over on Cheney highway.
Everything changes these old markers
year by lonesome year – the cocoon
of marriage fattens itself with more binding
with no hope of the silk splitting
not even when the morning glory wags
its blue trumpet and then is gone.
Forgetting greedy birds, I try bread crumbs,
bits of colored paper as I forget the brisk wind
in this dry season. The numbers on the houses
never look the same coming back. You’ve given
me a map, a compass, a goodbye kiss and once
I traveled all the way to the river and back.
I bake gingerbread in my spare time,
mix frosting for mortar. You helped me install
windows of spun sugar. Soon, I won’t
have to venture out. Already, people stop.The presumed identification of the speaker of this poem with the character in the fairy tale is both deflective and enticing. It enables the speaker to be heard without quite being looked at, thanks to the double-exposure of where the speaker is now and a fairy tale about menace and escape. That entices the reader to pay close attention. So the billboards and rust, the highway and the peeling paint, are less a setting than a pre-emptive reminder—“old markers year by lonesome year”—of how many lines and years away we are from that gingerbread house Gretel now memorializes by staying inside more and more to bake replicas of it. There is much mystery in evidence here. The trail back to somewhere gets obliterated by wind now, not devoured by greedy birds. Gretel has a map and a compass but no plans to go anywhere. --Frank Wilson
~~~~~Third Place:An almost kissby Henry L. Shifrin, of Wild Poetry Forum
This little man, an inch or so under five feet, his scalp–
a sea of scalloped skin–closes his eyes as a shadow
of nurse passes. The passing is like a long, high branch’s
sweep. She loosens the downy strap of his robe and from
his shoulders a feather seems to circle down. His taut, urine
skin—skin pulling in the ribs to show—is moon to the naked
bulbs above. A smell of shit, shorts that must be
washed—a flavor of regret the fan blows. His flabby fingertip of cock
seems to have no mind to harden when her breasts press
against his face. She scrubs his back. Then looks at her watch, places
a hand under his chin, tilts his head so she can see into his eyes.
His lips curl as if to pucker; no, only a facial tremor. A smile.Not a nurse, just the shadow of one, like the sweep of a branch. Talk about the world constricting. Why, the little man himself has become a moon among light bulbs taking the place of stars. The shadow nurse goes about her business coolly and efficiently, while the little man remains largely oblivious to her ministrations and the squalor of his feeble living. The nurse's look into the little man's eyes is strictly professional. But it calls forth a strictly human change of expression on the little man's face. Certain word harmonies (scalp/scalloped, urine/moon) and the evocative turns of phrase ("flavor of regret, ” the cock with “no mind to harden”) interact to evoke a chemical reaction of being. --Frank Wilson