Third Place Poem in Poet’s Choice Category

Third Place in Poet’s Choice: “The Ballad of Chaos Nightingale” by Charles Castle

My name is Chaos Nightingale. My mother christened me,
but it was my father’s song I followed here.
Come with me. We begin as I’ve begun, and we’ll end no differently.

I am bent by age in these somber times. My back is humped by life’s
uneven weight. I don’t complain, I welcome it.
I live in a house behind a church, a stone house in a field
of standing stones. I live on a broth of flowers left for grief,
my bread, a crust of loss.
I spend my days as a poor man spends, little by little, close
to nothing. But nothing, or close to it, is enough
and my prayers are often for nothing.
The hide on my feet is the leather of my coming and going.
I go as best I can, though less of me returns.

These days are distractions, but nights are a passage by dream
and all I meet along the way are like me. And though they may not
favor me, we are allied by our attire. My coat is threadbare to sky,
a tatter to rain, my hat is a rag-worn crown.
Each day’s weather is an advance of clouds towards storm, building
on the hours. It’s on this branch of road I sing through dust
and cloudburst leaning on a skull-capped cane.
I no longer nurse a muse. We share the same infirmities.
There is no unhappy word, one is like another, and now with you
we face into them as a headwind.

On this path across a bridge we visit a city shrouded by fog.
To describe the architecture is to describe fog giving birth
to spires under a halo of moons. The inhabitants sleep or perhaps
in a pandemic they do not brave the night.
We rarely see but a glimpse of them. A murmur of prayer
narrows through the streets. There are no songs shared
among ravens and crows.

Wood and stone render perspectives of charmed facades.
We meet at a fountained square down a cobbled boulevard.
You might wonder what intelligence designed it,
but if genius gave it order, we are strangers to it.
Yet there are inscriptions on the arches that genius
had some hand in, but the language is forgotten.

In a quaint and vacant neighborhood, a bell rings once.
Shadows absorb the peal and the hour is hidden.
There is an aroma of bread we’ve never tasted.
Somewhere a baker kneads in solitude, his hands a contrast
of shadows on leavened dough cast by a fire where the ovens warm.
Here is a single lamplit lane where we browse about the windowed
shops, but carelessly.
Our remoteness is a currency without exchange on this side
of bolted doors with their keepers all burrowed home.
Up the wine-stained stoops of shuttered taverns copper counters
reek of hops. The upturned chairs on café tables
reach toward darkened ceiling fans.
The alleys that we pass are robbed of light.

Our destination nears. We climb toward a hill where a bell tower
with a clock appears, but not a knell upon the knoll will tell the time.
And though we spend it here, we cannot stay. We only visit to take the view.
Yet should the fog part before the city wakes with its virus and its prayers,
we’ll sing a single penny’s love to the disease and beg it leave us
whole again.
Or by the bell at dawn return across the bridge to find
the field of stones has changed with the flowers left
that we’ll collect along with water from the rain.

Poet’s Bio: Charles Castle writes from Eugene, Oregon. Before Covid, he was co-host of
the monthly open mic, Burnin’ Down the Barnes at Barnes and Noble Books,
and he frequented as many other readings as he could. He believes in spoken poetry,
delivered live and in person,and so he is currently in exile. Charles has published
four books; Living with Patriarchs, A Season’s Second Coming, A Good-night in America
and Chasing Down the Storm.

Judge’s Statement (Pepper Trail): Judging a poetry contest is a privilege, a pleasure,
and a burden. One goes into it knowing that there will be impossible choices,
the weighing of apples and oranges on an uncalibrated scale. This is particularly true
with the Poets Choice category, which asks only that poets submit the work they love
the best. How to compare a tender 10-line lyric with an epic 70-line rhyming narrative,
when each fully expresses the author’s intent and skill? The poems I ultimately selected
are varied in style, length, and subject, but all shared powerful and original imagery
– sometimes stark, sometimes slant. Each is a work of art, bearing the fingerprints of
its maker.Each took me to a place I had not been before, and gave me reasons to return
again and again.

Judge’s Bio: Pepper Trail’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Windfall,
Borderlands, Ascent and other publications, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of
the Net Awards. He is the author of three collections: Flight Time, An Empty Bowl, and
Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, which was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. His
writing on the environment has appeared in High Country News, Shambala Sun, National
Geographic, and elsewhere. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, where he works for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

Second Place Poem in Poet’s Choice Category

Second Place in Poet’s Choice: “Temenos” by Alicia Byrne Keane

is the name of the surgery,
the street is a jeweled neatness
of bookshops,

I know the doctor’s number
off by heart and I can’t afford this
synesthesia of fours and nines
showing up yellow ochre
or plum-bruised
in the clang
dread makes.

Ringing the doorbell
becomes a remembered tree-shadow:
we’ve entered the adjacency,
unwrapping a grove
from taut silence,

I know the doctor’s number
off by heart although I shouldn’t,
the rules don’t apply here
in the unresolved:

my fear something
I scramble to reach the edges of,
cloth in wind.
Assess the parameters
of what is hallowed;

walk the shell-pink edge of a diagnosis
that seems either terrible
or nothing at all,
depending
on the

shapes
of newly-spun
branches stilling the blue

above you
as you
drive home

Poet’s Bio: I am a PhD student from Dublin, Ireland. I have a first class honours degree
in English Literature and French from Trinity College Dublin and a MSt. in English Literature 1900- present from Oxford University. My poems and short fiction have previously been published in journals such as The Moth, Entropy, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Toho Journal, LuckyJefferson, and others. I delightedly follow the Oregon Poetry Association for many reasons including your diverse focus, your encouragement of an interdisciplinary view of the arts, and the vivid originality of thecontest-winner poems published here.

Fall Poetry Contest – Poet’s Choice, First Place

OPA Fall 2020 Contest Results in the Poet’s Choice Category
“To all the poets who submitted to Poet’s Choice: it was a deep pleasure to read your work. It is
the nature of contests that only a very few can be recognized, and I regret the disappointment
felt by the many – having often experienced it myself. Onward!” (Pepper Trail, Judge)

First Place in Poet’s Choice: “Rise on Up” by Mark Hammerschick
I’m looking at George Floyd
on the cover
of The New Yorker
and he seems sad
looking south
into lands lost on the Delta
where cotton in the seam
covers the dreams of those
lost in dreams deferred
where hope is not allowed
and tears can see
the pure brilliance of invisible men
picking cotton
in the humid chill of mourning
down in the callous hollow
where the women come and go
chatting about their hydrangeas
where did the summer go
and how does it measure
a life lived in the cross hairs
of subliminal annihilation
step out of the vehicle
license and registration please
arms raised
arms up like Ezekiel holding the wheel
holding up against all hope
against the wall
that divides us all
and in that holding
a life is defined
a life is lived large
go down Moses
go down to the river
where the waters of redemption flow
and in that flow
we hug the lost raisins
so they don’t explode
and we know
that the flow
is rising on up

Poet’s Bio: Mark writes poetry and fiction.He holds a BA in English from the University of
Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a BS and MBA.He is a lifelong resident of the Chicago
area and currently lives on the north shore, most of his professional career has been
focused on digital strategy and online consulting as a solution architect and digital
transformation strategist. His current work will be published in The Metalworker,
Vext Magazine, Breadcrumbs Magazine, Meat for Tea,The Valley Review, and others.