2017 Fall Contest Winner: 2nd Place, New Poets

Cosmonaut’s Lament

 

Above her head

the stars,

bleary in their watchfulness

 

Under her feet

black offal,

of metal tang and smoke and char

 

Contrails unspool like strands of hair in zero G

and the cosmonaut thinks of

earthbound tidepools

 

little pockets of life

where there should be no life

 

Of her sweetheart, unclasping

a locket notched at her throat

when she sees a burning line unzip the sky

 

Of her mother and father, looking

to the strafed horizon

from the empty boardwalk

 

Am I their Lucifer,

the Heavens lost,

falling down to an embered earth

 

Or their Icarus,

spine twisting,

fused emptying breath and breezes lack?

 

The cosmonaut enters the breach

and Earth swings up like a steady sword

from a golden myth

 

little pockets of life

where there should be no life

 

 

Genevieve DeGuzman’s work has appeared in Asian Journal, now called Tablet, a Columbia University publication. She is the author of Working in the UnOffice, a book exploring the concept of coworking and collaborative workspaces. Recently, Genevieve was awarded a 2017 literary arts grant to attend the Can Serrat International Art Residency in El Bruc, Spain. She is the co-founder of Night Owls Press and lives in Portland, Oregon.

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 1st Place, New Poets

Disturbance Theory

at HJ Andrews Experimental Forest

 

I stumble through the tangle of old growth. I stumble through a clear cut’s slash. I hike: Lobaria a verb above the mossy trail. I hike: bracken brushes bare shins and arms. Long traverse: hyphenated, forests become adjectives: old-growth, clear- cut: links follows gaps between my stumbles through vine and slash: square hole, round peg: no squaring an open circle in a human lifetime. Flood, wind throw, lightening: an avalanche-sliced swath of old growth begins anew: live things live in lava flow (see the west flanks of Santiam Pass for a glimpse of possibilities): green a code to grow by: of old growth perhaps too primeval too lush too many waters in free flow too too too many blossoms and spiders for science to decipher; blueprint different (and same) for plantation nth-growth row-after-row born from clear-cut: free from ambiguity or uncertainty: it is and will be cut in eighty-odd years. Two peaks to gaze from: summering sharp-edged rocky one: slick ice- covered wintering one: boots step into the wild’s simile of racism: species- ism: Spotted Owl one with old growth’s multi-story canopy: and migrating Barred?:opportunist? beneficiary? convert? acolyte?: unplannedsurprise, says dispassionate science, continuum thunderclaps blowing: flesh and blood synced to crossbreed Spotted-Barred’s hybridized call: hoo-hoohoo-howawwh!: spectral mix of black and white: gray in the amalgam: what is a Northern Flying Squirrel to think?: only deep time knows if clear-cut thefts rise to the call of Disturbance.

 

Judge’s comments

I thought a lot about meaning as I read these poems. I thought about how language creates meaning, how humans create language, and how, despite how frail the letters words are made of, how inadequate the sounds of words are to represent the wide world, still meaning is made by one person who makes marks on a paper and understood by another person who looks at those marks with her eyes. It was a pleasure to read every poem entered and respond to the images, sounds and intent of each one. In “Disturbance Theory,” language is a torrent, blowing around owls, lichen, trees, punctuation, convention—the poem makes meaning out of a hike in the woods, melting that meaning with ecological data, wild conjecture and a marching-band sound.

 

Michael G. Smith is a chemist. He has had writing residencies with the Spring Creek Project (Oregon State University) at Shotpouch Cabin and at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cider Press Review, Crannóg, Labletter, Nimrod, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Sin Fronteras, and other journals and anthologies. His books include The Dark is Different in Reverse, No Small Things, The Dippers Do Their Part, and Flip Flop.

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 3rd Place, Theme–Current Events

The Greatest Show on Earth

Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1919–2017

 

Grandma said the circus came to town

by train, paraded through the streets to the fairgrounds

 

tigers in horse-drawn cages, clowns, a man on stilts,

a brass band, acrobats in spangled costumes;

 

the children tugged at their parents’ hands

to the fairground, where the Big Top was hoisted

 

by elephants. In our day, the circus came

with announcement posters, rectangular tickets

 

vivid orange, yellow, red, a snarling tiger’s head

encircled in blue, and in black the performance date.

 

On the big night, rows of cars guided by valets

waving red and white wands pointing “this way,”

 

already sawdust tickling the nose; we clattered up

the shuddering pine and metal risers.

 

Spotlight!    Ringmaster all in black, a silken hat —

a crescendo of bareback riders in pink sequins,

 

eight white horses flowing

in an endless circle round the ring

 

Tigers         hoops of fire!

cracking whips, snarling, how we gasped

 

at intermission caramel corn, begged our parents

for a little lizard tethered on a flannel board

 

and when I went alone for cotton candy, passing a lion

asleep in his cage, plump tawny paw poked through the bars

 

he twitched in a feline dream and I nearly

Screamed!   ten-year-old heart pumping!

 

When the crowd filed out at the end

my little sister followed the wrong line

ended up behind a huge camel and

a trio

of

dwarfs

 

Now the circus has folded its tents, acrobats and

tiger tamers gone, animals scattered

 

painted wagons lined up in a circus museum

still smelling faintly of sawdust and dung.

 

Judge’s comments

We live in tumultuous times, and the poems entered in the Current Events category certainly reflect that. There were so many fine poems that judging was a delight.

“The Greatest Show on Earth” bids a sad adieu to the closing of Ringing Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in language exhibiting both childlike joy and regret for things passed.

 

Linda Barnes is a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator. She teaches online with the Therapeutic Writing Institute. Past president of the International Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy, she is a founding member of the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association, where she coordinates an annual poetry contest.